Life's a beach at Wodonga races

GALLERY: Click or flick across the above photo for more pictures, including 'best beachwear' winners (iPhone app users can tap the 'Photos' tab).

SUNSHINE and clear skies lured a large crowd to the Wodonga Turf Club’s Boxing Day races yesterday.

Between 4000 and 5000 enjoyed the casual atmosphere of the “beach in the country” event.

There was a new take on fashions on the field, with competitions for the worst Hawaiian shirt and best beach bod.

Simon Lewis, in Wodonga from Grafton to visit his grandmother for Christmas, was pleasantly surprised to take out the best beach bod contest, having considered himself “a dark horse”.

“I think it was the extra surface area that I have that got me across the line,” Mr Lewis said.

Following his win, Mr Lewis was keen to visit the region again, and return to the races next year to defend his title.

“This is a really great area, there’s a fantastic vibe here and I’ll definitely try to get back here next year.”

SPORT: TV blackout put trainer in race to the rail.

It wasn’t just the larrikins among the crowd who were having a good time, with nine-year-old Brooke McKenzie getting dressed up for her first day out at the races.

“I love seeing the horses coming past, it’s very exciting,” Brooke said.

Brooke’s mother Bridget Schilg was happy to spend the day out in the sun instead of in a shopping centre.

“This is a great family event, there’s a great calm and relaxed atmosphere here,” she said.

Columbian national Vanessa Balvin, who was visiting Wodonga with friend and local Chelsea Johnstone while on a break from their university studies in Melbourne, was enjoying a taste of real Australian culture.

Ms Balvin was feeling right at home in the relaxed country atmosphere, declaring the Wodonga races “better than the Melbourne Cup”.

“It’s so much nicer here, being able to wear thongs is really great,” Ms Balvin said.

“Everybody here is so friendly, I’m having a great time.”

Wodonga District Turf Club manager Brad Thomas was also having a great time, praising the well-behaved crowd.

“Everyone has had a great day here today,” Mr Thomas said.

Bec Howard, 24, from Albury, Meg Jacobs, 22, from Thurgoona, Adelle Gormly, 28, from Albury and Summer Pask, 28, from Albury.

Bec Howard, 24, from Albury, Meg Jacobs, 22, from Thurgoona, Adelle Gormly, 28, from Albury and Summer Pask, 28, from Albury.

Jen Barton, 22, from Albury.

Jen Barton, 22, from Albury.

Vanessa Balvin, 27, from Columbia and Chelsea Johnstone, 24, from Wodonga.

Vanessa Balvin, 27, from Columbia and Chelsea Johnstone, 24, from Wodonga.

Brooke McKenzie, 9, from Wodonga held up by her mother Bridget Schilg from Wodonga and partner Craig Tanner from Wodonga.

Brooke McKenzie, 9, from Wodonga held up by her mother Bridget Schilg from Wodonga and partner Craig Tanner from Wodonga.

Lisa Carpenter from Wodonga and friend Paul Stone from Indigo Valley check out the form guide.

Lisa Carpenter from Wodonga and friend Paul Stone from Indigo Valley check out the form guide.

Luke Dunphy, 26, from Leneva, Grace Kernaghan, 19, from Wodonga, Tyson Mason, 24, from Leneva, Jordyn Lefoe, 19, from Albury and Liam Calderwood, 22, from Baranduda.

Luke Dunphy, 26, from Leneva, Grace Kernaghan, 19, from Wodonga, Tyson Mason, 24, from Leneva, Jordyn Lefoe, 19, from Albury and Liam Calderwood, 22, from Baranduda.

Snip Esprit pips Solar Strike.

Snip Esprit pips Solar Strike.

Winner of Best Beach Wear, Darren Wouters, 20, from Barnawartha, with some of his excited mates.

Winner of Best Beach Wear, Darren Wouters, 20, from Barnawartha, with some of his excited mates.

MC Amy Collins from with entrants in the Best Beach Body Competition, Mikka McWilliams, 20, from Wodonga, Brayden "Big Sexy" Deas, 20, from Barnawartha and Simon Lewis, 24, from Grafton. Simon Lewis won the competition.

MC Amy Collins from with entrants in the Best Beach Body Competition, Mikka McWilliams, 20, from Wodonga, Brayden "Big Sexy" Deas, 20, from Barnawartha and Simon Lewis, 24, from Grafton. Simon Lewis won the competition.

Kinselray, ridden by Omercik Ay, wins race 3.

Kinselray, ridden by Omercik Ay, wins race 3.

Lord Wolsey, ridden by Nick Souquet, wins race 5.

Lord Wolsey, ridden by Nick Souquet, wins race 5.

“The party marquee has been a success, the kids entertainment has been a success, and the great weather has certainly helped us out.

“I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out.”