Dust settles on special race day

IT'S HARD to believe, I know, but Thursday was my first ever race day.

I was pretty excited to be covering the 2012 Coffs Cup on behalf of The Advocate's Social Animal, so on the morning of the races, I sat in front of my computer (after a big breakfast, but before all the make-up) and I sent out a message on Facebook asking for some advice.  

Within minutes I received race-day tips from all over the world, and here's how it all went.  

Watch out for bogans

We've all seen the movie 'Kenny', with its hilarious and disturbing scenes of Melbourne Cup shenanigans. I was very pleasantly surprised to see almost no bogans at all - just lots and lots of people having generally cheerful fun.  

According to the local police, people were well behaved with a minority spoiling an otherwise good day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, excessive alcohol consumption was the main culprit. The best arrest? A man showing off a new tattoo in a very private place... Right as police walked past. Put it away, mate!   

Stick to mid-strength beer

The Cup was very much covered from the beer angle by gracious hosts Carlton United Brewery. Northern sales manager Derek Cutting made a formal speech and included a fabulous compliment to the whole crowd, saying it made the day "worth it" to see the effort guests put into getting involved - particularly in their lovely race-wear. 

All the other official speeches were good, too - short, heartfelt and occasionally funny. We gave spokesperson Laurie Daley extra points for collecting some distracting litter during one speech - way to go, Laurie!

Don't let anyone put a saddle on you

There was definitely a lot of horsing around off the track, but on track the stars of the show - the horses themselves - were the very model of athletic grace. I'd never seen race horses so close before. The mounting yard was easily accessible to serious punters and the merely curious alike.  

I spoke to John, a former race horse owner, about his racing secrets. He just smiled and said he was a cattle man, these days.  

Strapper Marie was more forthcoming - she said she'd been in the industry all her life. "Coffs is a really good track," she said. "We've got 11 horses racing today!"  

I spoke to Kevin, a former trainer, and got the best advice of the day. "You want the horse to give you the eye as it goes past," he said.   

Bet on the fastest horses

After I saw a horse giving me the eye, I left the mounting yard and cruised the field until I saw the bookmakers with the coolest hats. I strode up to place my first ever bet - and got it wrong! I looked at the change in my hand, and told the bookie I meant something different. "That's okay," said James Zuvela, "not a worry!"

Career bookmaker James, his wife, and his brother in law were all working on the day, and his parents were working another stand on the grounds. "We've been in the business oh, about 35 years," James said.

With all the cash in his wife's rather large bookie bag, I didn't feel so bad collecting my small, but satisfying, winnings.   

Make sure you have a little water

On the way out of the grounds, the Red Frogs had set up a little oasis for thirsty race goers. Pouring constant cups of water for people on their way home, the chaplaincy group was a great reminder that the Coffs Cup is a community day, and an opportunity for groups and individuals of all stripes to get together and celebrate.  

Wear flats

The day was long, and unfortunate shoe-choices made all the difference to weary party-goers as the sun went down. A mix of gravel and grass took its toll on heels, and there were quite a few barefoot lasses at the end of the day. But there were many more revellers whose frocks, tuxedos, shoes and hats remained flawlessly in place all day.  

Fashions on the Field was a great event, with some seriously stylish folk of all ages making their way across the competition platform. It was wonderful to see high-fashion details like patterned hosiery and classic parasols amongst scatterings of monochrome and neon. A truly decorative crowd.  

It was a testament to all the goodness of the Coffs Coast that the day went so well: blue skies, fresh sea air, colour, excitement and a surprising amount of good old fashioned grace. Giddy up!    

Make sure to check Social Animal's Facebook page for photos. Like the page, and like your favourite photo, for a chance to win an Animal Prize Pack.

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