Silver Fern Maria Tutaia takes Melbourne Cup on tour in the Waikato

The Melbourne Cup was a big hit with pupils of Walton School in the Waikato.
Victoria Racing Club

The Melbourne Cup was a big hit with pupils of Walton School in the Waikato.

Maria Tutaia physically towers above all others as she walks into the office of Rich Hill stud in Matamata.

She receives compliments about her new handbag as she settles down for the interview.

"My fiance bought it for me. I'm not really a handbag person but this is all I need."

Staff at the Kaimai Cafe get a chance to see the Melbourne Cup with Maria Tutaia and former Australian jockey, Scott ...
Victoria Racing Club

Staff at the Kaimai Cafe get a chance to see the Melbourne Cup with Maria Tutaia and former Australian jockey, Scott Seamer, who won the cup in 2001.

She looks around and then realises she's not there for an "interview about my handbag".

And that's quite right. Her visit to Rich Hill was her first outing as the inaugural New Zealand Melbourne Cup carnival ambassador.

She's contracted to the Victoria Racing Club to generate interest among Kiwis for one of the biggest parties in Australian sport.

Maria holds the cup during the visit to Kaimai Cafe, with fellow tourists, her manager David Steele and Scott Seamer.
Victoria Racing Club

Maria holds the cup during the visit to Kaimai Cafe, with fellow tourists, her manager David Steele and Scott Seamer.

Her visit to Rich Hill on Wednesday was part of the club's New Zealand tour, taking the Melbourne Cup to Kiwis.

While in the Waikato, the tour also visited Hobbiton, Walton School, Matamata Racecourse and the Kaimai Cafe.

The tour was a welcomed learning curve for the new ambassador.

Aussie Scott Seamer keeps an eye out for any Hobbits trying to nab the prized Melbourne Cup, during its visit to Hobbiton.
Victoria Racing Club

Aussie Scott Seamer keeps an eye out for any Hobbits trying to nab the prized Melbourne Cup, during its visit to Hobbiton.

"I've been heavily involved in the Auckland Cup at Ellerslie for the past four years and I must admit when I first started, I didn't know much about racing.

Ad Feedback

"But I guess as the years have gone by I've learnt a few things about the sport and what it's all about."

The Silver Fern netballer said she didn't hesitate to accept the opportunity offered to her by the Victoria Racing Club.

One cup to rule them all? The Melbourne Cup at Hobbiton, as part of its tour in the Waikato.
Victoria Racing Club

One cup to rule them all? The Melbourne Cup at Hobbiton, as part of its tour in the Waikato.

"It is an interesting role and something different from netball. But I do get to meet a lot of other athletes from different codes, where I can learn more about racing.

"I've also met a lot of people involved in racing, heard about their stories and journey in the sport, which has been very inspiring."

Tutaia expected more Kiwis to embrace the Melbourne Cup carnival and embracing her new ambassadorial role, took the chance for a bit of PR during the interview.

New Zealand Melbourne Cup carnival ambassador Maria Tutaia, holding the Melbourne Cup, next to Shocking, the 2009 cup ...
Lawrence Gullery

New Zealand Melbourne Cup carnival ambassador Maria Tutaia, holding the Melbourne Cup, next to Shocking, the 2009 cup winner, at the Rich Hill stud.

"Since 2013 the number of Kiwis heading over to see the Melbourne Cup has increased by 40 per cent. And in fact this year, P&O Cruises will set sail on a 10-day cruise from Auckland over to Melbourne. It's all about celebrating the carnival and everything racing."

She said Victoria Racing Club has been flexible and worked around her netball commitments. There were no tests scheduled for November this year and it meant she would be able to attend the Melbourne Cup, for the first time.

Tutaia is no stranger to Matamata having played for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic for two seasons from 2009-2010.

She has been playing in Auckland since and had not contemplated a return to the Magic when asked.

"You're so cheeky for asking. That's [a return to Magic] not part of my plan as such but who knows, I will leave it up to god."

Victoria Racing Club tourism and community executive David Kennedy said the club was happy to have Tutaia as its first New Zealand ambassador.

"She was a natural fit with the club and the Melbourne Cup. She is an athlete and has a background and interest in fashion, which encapsulates the Melbourne Cup story.

"You've got the fashion and entertainment side as well as the sporting side. Maria is learning on the job, this is her first trip to a stud farm and we're all hoping to learn a little bit more about racing from our visit."

Kennedy said the club would host Tutaia at this year's Melbourne Cup. She would be involved in the Myer Fashion on the Field event at Flemington.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback