Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Temptation Tuesday...Spring Racing


The Spring Racing Carnival is always a huge deal in Melbourne, the fashion and cultural capital of Australia. The same way you can tell Christmas is on the horizon when shopping centre Muzak changes, or when you catch tinsel out of the corner of your eye for the first time in months, when Spring Racing is nearing, one's shopping experience alters dramatically.

After a long icy cold winter, gone are shop windows filled with winter coats and ugh boots as they make way for glamorous dresses and feathery hats. We girls head out to the shops preparing to spend as little as possible on an appropriate outfit which will only be worn once, and the next hundreds of dollars are spilled from our ready credit cards as we are blinded by the choice of colour and hem-length and netting and flowers.

For Aussie women who year round are most happy in jeans and t-shirts, frou-frou becomes the order of the day. Spring Racing means fake tan, bright lipstick, and champagne for breakfast lunch and dinner. Spring Racing means a flutter bet on a long shot or a favourite, or heck, why not both? Spring Racing means you can wear the most beautiful dress you have ever seen, a hat bigger than your head laden with feathers that touch the sky and ridiculously expensive high heels that you know won't last past that one day at the races as they fight against mushy turf, spilt beer, and stomping hooves of man and horse alike.

The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is something that has permeated not only our fair city but the whole land. As we are a nation that counts Phar Lap - a gangly, underdog, blighted horse who died seventy odd years ago - as a national icon, the biggest month in the horse racing calendar always creates a buzz.

But last year for Spring Racing, there was a very particular hum in the air.
The Melbourne Cup, the biggest race in the yearly calendar, the "race that stops a nation" for three minutes every year on the first Tuesday in November, wasn't just about the hats and celebrity cleavage.

Last year, a glorious mare by the name of Makybe Diva had the chance to do what no other horse in history had done - she had the chance to win her third Melbourne Cup in a row. Not even our Phar Lap, so beloved he now resides, stuffed and on show, in our state Museum, had done such a feat.

The day dawned, hot and sunny. And in
Melbourne at that time of year such weather is notoriously hit and miss. The Melbourne Cup day is as likely to be hit with flooding rains as it is to be scorched with 40 degree heat. But on that rain-free day last year, would the ground be too hard and dry for the Diva who prefers the wet? Would her owner and trainer even let the great mare race?

She was the talk of the town, the front of the newspaper for a good week leading up to the big race. And every Australian tall enough to hold a dollar coin to a bookie's window put a bet on her that day. Her odds were so low it was hardly worth it, but that wasn't why we bet.

She sat back for the majority of the race, behind the leaders and against the fence. Her glittering red white and blue colours the only ones any of us watched through the whole race. Would she be stuck against the rails? Or was her experienced jockey exactly where he wanted her to be?

They rounded the straight, the thudding hooves creating a primal soundtrack to the excited musings of the race caller. And then she came. Strong, fast, the wind at her heels and fate guiding her home to slide past the winning post in first place. Strangers hugged strangers. Defeated punters threw their losing betting stubs into the air in delighted resignation. Every Australian shed a tear of pure joy for the elegant lady winner.

Makybe Diva, a legend, retired after that race. Which leaves us with a wide open field for today’s big race.
So who will be the new favourite? The new darling?

And more importantly what will we wear?

Ally has a book out in North America this month, HOW TO MARRY A BILLIONAIRE released through Silhouette Romance, in which the hero and heroine spend a day at the Melbourne Cup.

Ally's books often feature the many delights of her home town, including the row of French Pastry shops in beachside Acland Street St Kilda, the outdoor movies at Federation Square in the middle of the city, and the fabulous Melbourne Zoo.

For more about gorgeous Melbourne, check out Ally's website.


  1. Ah ha! This is your Ascot! As to what to wear - it's all in the hat!!

  2. Oh, I remember watching the movie Phar Lap when I was a kid...I went through a serious horsie phase. I cried watching that movie.

  3. Ally, I so jealous.....beautiful dresses, hats, racing and sun! It's raining here in the Pacific Northwest, in fact it's flooding but a girl can dream?

  4. It's quite a couple of weeks leading up to the big one - the race that stops a nation. Was cold and blustery yesterday but over 106,000 people still braved the elements to watch Delta Blues win!


  5. I love the Melbourne Cup so much I had to write a book about it!
    My next release, INHERITED: BABY is based around the Cup. And my fictitious horse Material Girl was definitely inspired by the great mare Makybe Diva.
    Love the excitement of the Cup!!!

  6. I knew Ally had written this before I even scrolled down to the end!!!