From Sydney, Lewis the Lion and Helen took an early morning flight to Melbourne. Helen wouldn’t make that mistake again of booking such an early morning flight. She’d thought that she’d got a good deal but it turned out that because it was so early and you need to arrive at the airport a minimum of an hour before an internal flight, no public transport was running. That meant that she and Lewis the Lion had to pay a lot of money to catch a taxi to the airport. False economy indeed!
However, everything happens for a reason so Lewis the Lion thought, as if they hadn’t been on that early morning flight, they might not have met Marion in their hostel, and it was with Marion with whom they ended up having a fabulous time at the famous Melbourne Cup. The Melbourne Cup, held on the first Tuesday of each November, is perhaps Australia’s biggest annual horse race (perhaps like The Grand National in the UK). It is so big, that on the day of the big race itself, it is actually a public holiday in Melbourne and it brings many places to a standstill nationwide.
So, one of the first things that Helen had to organise when she got there was to go on a fascinator hunt! Being a traveller, she wasn’t inclined to keeping hats, handbags or other hair accessories in her rucksack so she would have to buy something if she wanted to join in with the next day’s celebrations. Therefore along with Marion, Lewis the Lion and Helen headed into Melbourne to see what they could find. It was quite late on in the day and many shops were starting to shut.
Helen and Marion started to panic a little bit but they were still in luck as the big department store, Myers, was open till late and had a special section purely dedicated to all those attending the races. There were hats, fascinators, handbags and other accessories in every colour of the rainbow. You were truly spoilt for choice and it was difficult to make a decision! In the end, Helen bought an elegant black hairband fascinator with a matching handbag and Marion bought a fun, blue-feathered fascinator. (Without Lewis the Lion knowing it, Helen had also picked up a little surprise for him so that he could join in the fun of the day too!).
That evening, Helen bought their entrance tickets on-line and printed them off. It was time to get an early night as there would be an early start tomorrow morning.
The next morning came around with a flutter of excitement. People were gathered around the hostel bathroom in their posh frocks, blow drying and straightening hair, putting on make-up and generally preening themselves. As Lewis the Lion looked out of the hostel window onto the street below, he could hear the tottering of heels as girls with big hats and elegant dresses were clip-clopping along. It was a strange sight to see so early in the morning as if a huge group of people were headed to an enormous wedding all together!
The spectacle got even more impressive as Lewis the Lion, Helen and Marion neared the train station. It was simply wonderful to see everybody dressed up so elegantly and going to the races. With a special travel card, they boarded a packed train to Flemington Race Course. On the train, Helen spoke to a group of girls who had been to the races for a few days now. They explained that on Saturday it had been another big event ‘Ladies’ Day’ where everyone had to wear black and white, but that today was the biggest event of all. Lewis the Lion just couldn’t believe how lucky that he was to have arrived in Melbourne at precisely the right time!
When the train pulled into the station, Helen produced a little flowered band for Lewis the Lion to put in his mane so that he didn’t feel left out.
He loved it!
And Marion even found a little leaf that looked a bit like a feather too!
At the entrance to the Flemington Racecourse, tickets were checked and then it was time to soak up the wonderful party atmosphere.
It was great to do some serious people watching here. It was good to see everybody dressed so smartly as there was a strict dress code. However, Lewis the Lion liked it best of all to see the range of styles and designs and certain eccentric pieces. If there was a time to be bold and extravagant, this seemed like it.
However, his award for the best dressed of the day had to go to some musicians out front who were dressed like jockeys.
They really entertained the crowd and brought smiles to everyone’s lips.
You can click this video link to get a flavour of the fun!
It was now time to head out racetrack side.
Lewis the Lion just loved the scene. He even met a man with a lion hat: fancy that!
There were people standing on the Grandstand steps and out on the lawn was a patchwork of picnic blankets and umbrellas.
Those umbrellas definitely came in useful a little while later as there was a sudden downpour of rain and there was a scramble for people to take cover. Lewis the Lion thought that it was a great ice-breaker because in the melee, people started chatting to strangers and everybody seemed to see the humorous side of events.
After the shower had passed over, Lewis the Lion was really happy to bump into some of his friends that he had met travelling in New Zealand: Dymphna, Clare and Lina. What a lovely coincidence that they were here for the Melbourne Cup too!
To celebrate, the friends shared some champagne which seemed to be the drink of choice for those racecourse goers. Of course, Lewis the Lion was too young to join in (you needed a special bracelet on your arm to prove you were old enough to drink) but he liked to pretend anyway as you can see in this photo. What a cheeky little lion!
It was now time for the grown-ups to decide on which horses they might like to place a bet for the main race of the day, starting at 3 o’clock. Helen had been given a tip for a horse called Mount Athos. She placed another bet on a horse called Winchester as the jockey had a lion strip but her instinct pointed her towards a horse called Green Moon. She didn’t really know anything about horse racing so she just picked the horse she liked the name of: as simple as that! So, she placed a $5 bet on Green Moon for it to arrive in one of the top three positions (each way).
Marion, Helen and Lewis the Lion now decided it was time to have a little wander around the ground itself. They seemed to have timed it to perfection because unwittingly as they moved towards the horse paddock, the gates closed around them and they were blocked behind some fences. However, it transpired that the place where they had been hemmed-in offered them a prime location for all the action that was to follow. Lewis the Lion couldn’t have planned it any better if he’d tried. He could even see Prince Charles and Camilla, his wife on the balcony as they had also flown in for the occasion. He always knew that as a king of the jungle himself, he was always destined to mix with royalty!
The gleaming Emirates Melbourne Cup itself was then carried past Lewis the Lion
and an incredible piece of moving artwork also trotted by: an imitation of a horse that moved in a truly life-like way. Quite incredible!
The Australian national anthem was then sung to mark the start of the build up to the race
and the competing horses were led right past Lewis the Lion. He thought that the horses looked really athletic and geared up for action. What surprised him though was the size of the jockeys: they really were petite-framed men but Lewis the Lion figured, the smaller the rider, the faster the horse.
At three o’clock, the horses were being lined up at the start of the race, ready for the off.
Lewis the Lion took a short video of the start of the race as is being projected onto a large screen.
The video is a bit shaky but you can see the horses take off and then the video zooms around the crowd and even sees the royal box!
Click here to get a feel for the atmosphere at the racecourse as the races heats up.
Unbelievably, as the cheers got louder as the horses approached then surged past, Lewis the Lion thought he heard that Green Moon was the winner. Were his little ears deceiving him? No, not at all. Green Moon had indeed won the race!
‘Yeah!’ shouted Marion and Helen together in unison as they had both got winning tickets!
He just couldn’t believe their luck! Going with your gut instinct seemed to have paid off this time as it gave a return of $96 which more or less paid for their day out.
“Well done, Green Moon!” shouted Lewis the Lion as the winning horse paraded past him. There was much joy and celebration now as the friends dodged some rain showers and then danced on the lawn behind the grandstand. What an amazing day out at the races it had been!
Lewis the Lion noticed that the horses looked very hot and sweaty when they returned to the paddock after the race.
Do you think horse racing is a good idea?
What are the pros and cons?