Flemington Racecourse welcomes thousands of players back, fans to the Melbourne Cup

The roses are blooming, luxurious eateries are filled with champagne and the lawns will soon be littered with players as the Flemington Racecourse welcomes 10,000 guests back to the Melbourne Cup 2021.

After the pandemic essentially stopped Melbourne for more than 18 months, Victoria’s COVID-19 restrictions were eased just in time for the race that stops the nation.

While 70 per cent of the spectators at Flemington will be members of the Victoria Racing Club (VRC), only 5 per cent of the tickets were offered to the public, equivalent to a few hundred ticket holders.

The rest of the audience will consist of horse owners, company sponsors and trainers.

“It’s the best day in Australian sport, I think,” said VRC CEO Steve Rosich.

Race fans wearing dresses and hats sit on picnic rugs next to the roses in Flemington.
Spectators will be separated into three zones along the track and will not be allowed to move between zones.(ABC: Simon Gamble)

It will be more festive than last year’s race, where audiences were banned from attending due to Melbourne’s second COVID-19 wave, but it will still have a different atmosphere than previous events.

Spectators will be divided into three zones and will not be allowed to roam the racetrack, which has a maximum capacity of 120,000 people.

Players must be fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors and sit to eat and drink.

“It’s been quite unusual for horses for the last 18 months in Australia,” said jockey Craig Williams, who is riding his 19th Cup on Spanish mission.

“To actually have noise and crowds and emotions at the races, I think a lot of it will be a great benefit to the horses if they can cope with the day and the heat that leads into the race.

Cup fans who weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket can hold their own celebrations under Victoria’s recently eased COVID-19 restrictions.

Up to 10 people, including relatives, can watch the race in private homes, and 30 can meet for picnics and barbecues in public spaces.

Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants and pubs will be open and may have fully vaccinated, seated patrons subject to density limits.

Racing fan Keith Foletti has been the course in 85 out of 87 Melbourne Cups.

Keith Foletti wears a blue jersey over a blue shirt on a sunny day at the Living Legends racehorse boarding house.
Keith Foletti will be attending his 86th Melbourne Cup, missing only the years the public was banned due to COVID and the year he was on his honeymoon.(ABC News)

“I was baptized at the Melbourne Cup in 1934 when the sky opened up and I got drenched,” he said.

“The only two years I have missed were the year I was on my honeymoon, and last year when we were with COVID.”

He said he still did not mind his honeymoon taking over, but one of his daughters was within earshot when he made the comment.

A jockey raises his whip in triumph as he rides his horse past the post to win the Melbourne Cup.
Jockey Jye McNeil rides Twilight Payment to victory in the 2020 Melbourne Cup.(AAP: James Ross)

International to challenge the local favorite Incentivize

The horses are scheduled to jump in race 7, $ 8 million Melbourne Cup, around 1 p.m. 15 AEDT.

Star stayer Incentivize went on the first Tuesday in November as the cheapest Melbourne Cup favorite since Phar Lap in 1929.

It has been a quick climb for the Peter Moody-trained gelding, who was beaten well in a maiden race at Toowoomba just seven months ago, but has since won nine races in a row.

Last year’s winner, Twilight Payment, returns for another crack.

In 2020, the Irish gelding dominated from the front to give owner Lloyd Williams his seventh Cup.

The nine-year-old is again being ridden by jockey Jye McNeil, who said he was looking forward to racing in front of an audience in the Melbourne Cup.

“It would be good to be cheered home,” McNeil said.

“And hopefully they can also give him a cheer for last year.”

The British-trained galloping Spanish Mission is considered a threat to Incentivize, but VRC’s CEO Leigh Jordon said the stallion could be challenged by the 3,200-meter run.

“I’m going to go out and go with the Spanish mission,” Mr Jordon said

“I think he really is a topline stayer and possibly can [beat] Incentives if there is a break in his armor. “

Co-owners Bray Sokolski and Ozzie Kheir bought a stake in Incentivize earlier this year, but due to COVID-19 restrictions will only see the gelding for the first time in the flesh when he runs in the Cup.

“It hurts because … what we love most about racing are horses and being around them,” Mr Sokolski said.

“Hopefully, when things get better, we’ll be able to go to Pakenham and spend a really good time with him and pat him and … give him a carrot and a kiss.

“It’s going to be really special.”

Woman standing barefoot with heels in hand between shoes and bedding on the grass
While a limited number are allowed on the racetrack, spectators are expected to celebrate as hard as ever at the Melbourne Cup 2021.(ABC News: Margaret Burin)

The weather bureau predicts a sunny day with light winds and a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius.

Jordon says the track will get plenty of watering before the races begin.

“It will be perfect when the Cup takes place at 3pm,” he said.

And after a long absence of live entertainment in Victoria, some big names in Australian entertainment will be performing around the Flemington Racecourse.

ARIA Award winner Delta Goodrem is this year’s official VRC Ambassador and cast member of the Moulin Rouge! The musical performs on the front lawn after the settlement of the Cup.

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