Melbourne Cup Day races | Albury, Corowa, Wangaratta gear up for great day

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Dewi Streat and Tiffany Bourke-Edwards set up the young members’ area. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Dewi Streat and Tiffany Bourke-Edwards set up the young members’ area. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

YOUNG punters will get special treatment at today’s Melbourne Cup Day races in Albury.

The under-30s crowd has proven to be a big winner for the Albury Racing Club over the past few years.

To cater for them, the club will for the first time have a young racegoers’ marquee.

A DJ will set up inside the Canadian Club Young Members’ Marquee, with plenty of casual furniture for people to relax on and food and drink available.

“It’s more of an exclusive area for the under-30-year-olds, where they can go and enjoy the day,” club chief executive John Miller said.

The club is confident it will easily match the crowds of 3000 who have turned up in each of the previous two years.

Mr Miller said the replacement of the Melbourne Cup holiday across the border with one for the Wodonga Cup was unlikely to affect crowd numbers.

“Our crowds in the past few years have been a mixture of corporate-style, the hospitality bookings and then from the public there has been that younger demographic,” he said.

“With the bookings that we’ve got and the number of Wodonga companies that support our event, I can’t see it having much of an impact at all.”

Mr Miller said a big growth market for Melbourne Cup day had been pre-bookings.

“This year we’ve got possibly a thousand people pre-booked for our marquees and dining packages,” he said.

“We’ve also got a luncheon that you can still book for that’s already got a couple of people coming to.

“And then there’s the individual marquees.”

Two big screens are being set up on the course — one on the front lawn, the other in the beer garden area.

The club will also have live music in the beer garden throughout the day, with various acoustic sets followed by a six-piece band after the Melbourne Cup.

Mr Miller said the day was similar to the gold cup — the only event that brings more people through the gates — in that it was a big celebration for racegoers.

“The focus on the Melbourne Cup seems to get bigger and bigger on the national front every year,” he said.

“This is an opportunity for people in the local area to come out to a race meeting with all the facilities and entertainment we’ve got on course to enjoy the big race.”

Entries are capped at eight horses for each of the five races on the card.

“They’re smaller fields, it’s not TAB prize money and realistically our racing focus is more on Thursday on Oaks Day when we have TAB prize money,” Mr Miller said.

Fashions on the field, an annual Oaks Day focus, will make a first Melbourne Cup Day appearance in Albury today.

MARQUEES will make a return for Corowa Race Club’s meet today.

These will be trackside, giving punters and racing lovers a prime position to enjoy the day.

Corowa was considered the premier country race event in the region for many years.

In recent years, though, it has had to compete against several other towns, firstly Wangaratta and in more recent years Albury and Wodonga.

Wodonga decided to no longer race on the day last year, which is believed to have contributed to Corowa’s six-race event drawing a large crowd.

Club secretary and manager Sheridan Kay said the signs were strong for another outstanding day today.

Ms Kay said there was a buzz in town, with many tourists about and her office fielding inquiries from as far away as Melbourne.

“And we’ve got a huge fashions on the field event, including a category for children,” she said.

“There’s heaps to do for the kids, the track’s in great condition and there’s plenty of food with the on-site catering.

“There’s all TAB facilities and an under-cover betting ring.”

Ms Kay said the marquees had been reintroduced to “get that vibrant atmosphere” back.

“After the races people can jump on a bus and head back into town, where we’ve got some great pubs and restaurants,” she said.

Gates will open at 10am, with a bus service running to the racecourse from outside the Royal Hotel from 11.30am.

UP to 5000 people are expected to converge on Wangaratta today for its biggest race day of the year.

Chief executive Paul Hoysted said final tickets to the Wangaratta Turf Club’s race day packages were expected to sell out by late yesterday.

“It’s just a great day of country racing,” he said.

“There’ll be kids’ entertainment with the children’s playground, clowns and face painting, as well as fashions on the field supported by Wangaratta businesses.

“We’ve got six bookmakers on course, a big screen and plenty of facilities, so everyone’s well catered for on site.”

Mr Hoysted said there were six events on today’s non-TAB card.

“Most of them have got seven or eight horses in each event, so there’ll be plenty of good competitive racing,” he said.

Mr Hoysted said bookings for race day packages had come from a wide area, including Albury-Wodonga, Bright, Myrtleford, Beechworth, Yarrawonga and Benalla.

Buses will run from several of these towns.