At the Zoo

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Rhonda Dredge

There’s a big difference between having an opinion about racing and actually going to the Melbourne Cup and experiencing the vibe. 

Last year North West City News interviewed locals who had been exercising on the tranquil Flemington Racecourse grounds. 

Even those who’d usually ducked for cover when the Cup came around were having second thoughts. 

“The Victorian Racing Club can do whatever it likes as far as I’m concerned,” said one grateful resident, who’d been distancing on the grounds during lockdown. 

But for the 2022 Cup Day, almost 250,000 punters made up for lost time even though heavy rain was on the radar, and they attended the course in person. 

When the deluge arrived all of those in general admission, on both the lawn and race side, converged under the only cover available. 

Members looked out to see a surging mass of humanity struggling for a drink or chips, let alone getting to see the horses. They call it the Zoo. 

 

There was yelling and screaming, standing in beer queues and mobs of Melburnians looking for a bit of a celebration. The girls were in bare feet, their strappy shoes hopeless on the slippery tiles. Some were wearing plastic bags as they emerged out of the huddle.  

 

The queue for the burgers and chips was out in the open and it was a case of taking whatever was on hand. 

The Cup is meant to be an event for everyone. It’s a pity it was impossible to actually move between the mounting yard and the bookies and TAB. 

Some people left the track, betting online instead and owners were also affected by the crowded conditions.  

With quite large syndicates involved, the VRC has restricted numbers to 15 per horse with members entering a ballot for the privilege and some couldn’t get close to their horse in its golden moment. 

There was a rumour that the VRC was planning to increase the size of the mounting yard, but this was just that ... a rumour.  

“The Victoria Racing Club can confirm patrons remained safe at all times and the weather conditions did not impact the Melbourne Cup Carnival or crowd safety,” a spokesperson said.

“There is sufficient space in the Mounting Yard and the VRC does not have plans in the near future to renovate.” 

The Carnival this year supported more than 5000 jobs on course alone. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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