Melbourne Cup Carnival – Victoria Derby Day

Day One of the Carnival.

Official Flower: Blue Cornflower

Official literature states Victoria Derby Day is “considered one of the most prestigious days of racing in Australiasia”. It is “the day for classic elegance… traditionally a black and white colour scheme for women, while men often chose to wear a grey morning suit, top hat, peacock vest and pin-stripe pants”. My observations of the day conclude that the women follow this tradition more than the men. I was situated in a public marque, where patrons had paid for a sit-down experience with Peter Rowland catering and a private bar. Women showed up in as many combinations of black and white as you can imagine, and when a lady or two missed the monochrome memo, they stood out brighter than a sore thumb. My advice? Read up on your race days, ladies. It makes all the difference. And I’d place a bet on you being shunned by Fashion on the Fields in that colourful number, too.

After numerous training sessions, I had my first day as a tote operator, wearing a TAB pinstriped shirt and black bottomed ensemble. The training we’d been provided with was detailed and focused, but I still felt I had only an inkling of what to expect on the day. I arrived at the race track early, met up with a equally nervous friend, and we set off to find our totes. To be honest, the day passed very quickly. Being a tote operator is as simple as it is complex. You do very little in terms of ‘selling’ and a whole lot of receiving. Money in, money out. I was with four other tote operators in this marque, two of which had been doing the Spring Racing Carnival for years. Our supervisor was on the ball and made things a whole lot easier when it got busy or something went astray. The people were lovely but boy, did they spend!

I had a lovely woman who I guess you could call a regular coming to my tote. She called me her lucky charm and even directed other patrons to me, to give them some lucky numbers with my special, winning touch. She cashed in hundreds throughout the course of the day and went home a very happy chap. It was nice to see her and others having such a nice time.

The races in Melbourne are a big event. A few years ago, I attended Stakes Day (the fourth and final day of the Spring Carnival) and even without placing a bet, enjoyed the experience and atmosphere with friends. Betting and gambling are controversial topics, I know, but with a grain of salt, in this circumstance, I’d say the winners were all that participated. The whole event has such character and a particular Melbourne charm, I think it’s well worth a visit, even if just to experience the niche culture it nurtures.

I’ve referred before to how young I look and increasingly, I find myself assuring people that “I know I look 15, but…” I promise I’m legal. One lady today put such a comment in the nicest way possible and I actually appreciated the way she phrased the question about my age and appearance. She said “You’d have a lot of trouble getting into licensed premises, wouldn’t you?”. I laughed. Seriously, those words are much kinder than “Ohh… you’re how old?!” or any number of other ways I’ve been reminded of my awkwardly teenage appearance. I am in constant hope that my mannerisms and personality reassure those questioning of my maturity. I suspect only time will tell.

I saw many girls toppling and stiffening in their stilettos, shivering in their sleeveless dresses and smelt the wonderful smell of spray tans, particularly on the train back to the city. When fake tan is mixed with sweat, it spreads. But, it is one of my guilty pleasures. It’s just so full of chemically tropical goodness, I wouldn’t block my nose even if I should.

All in all, it was a pleasant day. I owe the tote $19.85 because I must have accidentally given someone an extra $20 which is disappointing, but my regular customer I spoke of before actually gave me back a $50 I’d overpaid her, and thus my faith in humanity is not completely lost.

So despite sitting all day, concentrating on numbers has worn me out. I’m looking forward to Cup Day though, and I’d really encourage you to think about attending. It is quintessentially Melbourne. Get around it.

1 comment
  1. Zeitgeist said:

    My money’s now on you for ‘Rookie Tote Operator of the Spring Carnival’!

    Any tips for the Big One?

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