Aussies go wild! Race-goers celebrate the return of Melbourne Cup

Aussies go wild! Race-goers celebrate the return of Melbourne Cup after finally being released from world’s longest Covid lockdown

  • The celebrations have begun after a massive day of racing at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia
  • The Melbourne Cup welcomed thousands of punters all dressed to the nines for the $8million race
  • Many punters were keen to let loose having spent months confined to their homes due to the Covid pandemic
  • The crowd was limited to 10,000 – but was an improvement on last year when no crowd was permitted 

An Australian racecourse welcomed thousands revellers to the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday with long-suffering Victorians ready to let their hair down after enduring the world’s longest Covid lockdown.  

The so-called ‘race that stops a nation’ has been held since 1861 and regularly attracts crowds of more than 100,000, but this year was restricted 10,000 fully-vaccinated people.

But that didn’t stop the race-goers from partying hard after coming out of their sixth Covid lockdown on October 21, which began in August to suppress the highly infectious Delta variant from spreading.

By October 21, the city of five million had spent a cumulative 262 days – or nearly nine months – under stay-home orders covering six different periods since March 2020 – the world’s longest cumulative lockdown, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires.

Officials had promised to lift lockdowns once double-dose vaccinations for people aged above 16 exceeded 70 percent in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital – abandoning its zero-Covid approach in-favour of one that relies on vaccines to keep the number of severe Covid-19 infections low.

The Flemington Racecourse can accommodate up to 120,000 spectators on major race days, but the 10,000 spectators on Tuesday was a marked improvement on last year when no crowd was allowed because of restrictions in place for the pandemic in 2020.

Cheers! Punters have let loose after a huge day of racing with thousands turning out in both Sydney and Melbourne to cheer on the horses for the Melbourne Cup (pictured at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse)

Pictured: A woman celebrates while watching the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, held after the world’s longest lockdown in Victoria was finally lifted on October 21

Tongue and cheek! A Melbourne Cup reveller holding her high heel shoes poses for a photo at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse


Sore hooves? Melbourne Cup race-goers had to take her high heels off after a long day at Flemington Racecourse

Tuesday’s crowd included Keith Foletti, who has been trackside for 85 out of 87 Melbourne Cups.

‘I was christened at the Melbourne Cup in 1934 when the heavens opened up and I got drenched,’ he told broadcaster ABC. ‘The only two years I’ve missed were the year I was on my honeymoon and last year when we were with the Covid.’ 

First staged in 1861, the Melbourne Cup has been run on the first Tuesday of November since 1876, and the winning horse instantly becomes a household name in Australia.

While the horse Verry Elleegant stormed to victory, in the stands it was slightly less elegant with glamorous race-goers pictured chugging champagne straight out of the bottle as the revellers were keen to kick up their heels amid their newfound freedoms.

While some were drinking in celebration, others were drowning their sorrows after red-hot favourite Incentivise came up short in the coveted $8million race. Cheers to the sound of popping champagne corks once more accompanying the thundering of hooves across the turf.

Stricter veterinary checks have been introduced after the deaths of six horses associated with the Cup since 2013, including Anthony Van Dyck, one of the pre-race favourites last year who broke down with 500 metres to go. 

Pictured: A glamorous barefoot punter dances on the grass at Flemington Racecourse celebrating her big win

Pictured: Two women hug at the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday as punters enjoy a post-pandemic party

Man Down! Luckily none of the horses fell this year but the same can’t be said for revellers watching the race trackside

Racegoers look on as the horses parade around the mounting yard ahead of race 5, the Lexus Melbourne Cup during 2021 Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse on November 02, 2021 in Melbourne

Australia had stayed largely virus-free for most of this year until a third wave in late June, spurred by the Delta variant, triggering further extended lockdowns. The country has recorded about 173,000 cases and 1,756 deaths, with about 82 percent of infections attributed to the Delta wave

In Sydney, the champagne was also flowing at the Royal Randwick Racecourse where 17,000 screaming Aussies packed in to get a taste of the action. 

There were similar crowds at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm racecourse which delivered its own day of spectacular races as Australians across the country ditched their work-from-home tracksuits and dressing gowns in favour of designer dressers and three-piece suits. 

Australia had stayed largely virus-free for most of this year until a third wave in late June, spurred by the Delta variant, triggering further extended lockdowns.

The country has recorded about 173,000 cases and 1,756 deaths, with about 82 percent of infections attributed to the Delta wave.

New South Wales reported 173 cases on Tuesday, up from 135 a day earlier, while Victoria logged 989 cases, the lowest rise in more than a month. The Australian Capital Territory logged eight new cases. Other states and territories are COVID-free or have very few cases. 

Bottoms up! The drinks were flowing at Randwick Racecourse on Tuesday with 17,000 turning out for a huge day of racing

Time for a rest: A race-goer lays down on the grass to take a break from all the action on the tract at Flemington

Spirits were high at Flemington Racecourse, but outside of the gates told another story with animal rights activists chaining themselves to a truck that had delivered a load of manure opposite the entrance.

Protesting the spate of horse deaths in the Cup in recent years, protestors chanted ‘Nup to the Cup’ with police taking nine away in handcuffs. 

‘Would you wear that suit to the slaughterhouse, sir?’ one protester armed with a megaphone asked racegoers on arrival.

But that did not deter Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula declaring the event a roaring success and a much needed shot in the arm for the city of Melbourne. 

‘Victorians worked so hard for so long to get the vaccination numbers up,’ Mr Pakula told reporters. ‘Victorians have earned this. It’s a majestic, glorious Melbourne Cup day and it means more to the city than it has for a long, long time.’ 

Tongues are wagging: A man and a women strike a pose at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse

Give’m the whip!: Shenanigans play out trackside at Flemington Racecourse ahead of the Melbourne Cup

All smiles: Two women cheer on the horses in style at Randwick Racecourse ahead of the highly anticipated Melbourne Cup

Ladies rejoice after a big win at the track, leaping out of their seats at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney

One happy race-goers strolls around the grounds at the Flemington Racecourse celebrating the day of action

A groups of mates burst out laughing at the Melbourne Cup as one of their pals hits the deck after a long day of celebrating

And the crowd goes wild! The scenes in Brisbane were no different with thousands of punters celebrating a day of racing at the Eagle Farm racetrack

Victory! A group of men dressed to impress celebrated in style at Randwick Racecourse on Tuesday for a day of races featuring the Melbourne Cup

Sydneysiders soaked up the Spring sun as they watched the Melbourne Cup from Royal Randwick Racecourse

Two punters got very lucky at the Melbourne Cup as they hugged and kissed trackside at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse

Wardrobe malfunction: A group of stylish ladies band together to fix their high heels shoes after a blowout

Verry Elleegant owners Brae Sokolski and Ozzie Kheir celebrate with the Lexus Melbourne Cup after James Mcdonald rode #4 Verry Elleegant to victory in race 7, the Lexus Melbourne Cup during 2021 Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse

Protesting the spate of horse deaths in the Cup in recent years, protestors chanted ‘Nup to the Cup’ with police taking nine away in handcuffs. ‘Would you wear that suit to the slaughterhouse, sir?’ one protester armed with a megaphone asked racegoers on arrival. Others, dressed as characters from Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ – held signs that read ‘we gamble on your lives’ and ‘you are the horses’

One race-goer who ditched her lockdown tracksuit and dressing gown for a stunning dress and high heels told Sydney Morning Herald it’s a strange feeling to be out and about after being trapped indoors for months during lockdown. 

Bianca Hickey, 19, from Sydney’s Neutral Bay who attend the action at Royal Randwick said being at an event with so many people was ‘a bit weird, I’m not going to lie’.

‘We went from no socialising to this. I think a lot of my friends and I have found it really hard,’ she said.

‘There’s the social anxiety of being locked away for three months, and everyone is so socially awkward.’

Pictured: Punters were dancing for joy at the Melbourne Cup after the city only recently emerged from the world’s longest lockdown

The force was with this punter at Sydney’s Royal Randwick who dressed up as Darth Vader from Star Wars

And they’re off! Punters are seen cheering on the horses and congratulating each other after the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday

A trackside kiss for luck? Two race-goers are pictured in a loving embrace ahead of the big race at Flemington Racecourse

Wink Wink!: Women dressed to the nines for the big day on Tuesday with Randwick seeing a crowd of 17,000 roll up 

This year’s Melbourne Cup marked the culmination of six months of preparation, Victoria Racing Club president Neil Wilson said.

Up until last month there was no guarantee the race would even go ahead as coronavirus cases soared. 

‘We’re really enjoying the spirit that’s on course right – people walking round the course with joy on their faces,’ he said. ‘It’s a big day for Australia – every second adult watches or listens to the race.’

Glamorous race-goers clutching cans at Flemington Racecourse cheer home the horse at the Melbourne Cup

Time for celebrations! One Brisbane punter is seen shouting for joy as the Eagle Farm Racecourse

Four friends throw their hands up in the air as they pose for a photo at the Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse

Place your bets! One man celebrates his win at the Eagle Farm race track in Brisbane on Tuesday

Cheers! A man holds up a can to the camera at the Eagle Farm Racecourse in Brisbane on Tuesday

Peace out: Some punters took a well deserved break from an exhausting day out at the races in high heels

Melbourne woman Sharni Taylor said she felt safe attending the Melbourne Cup with her partner Hayden due to the high vaccination coverage in Victoria.

‘I feel confident they’ve got safe practices here,’ the 27-year-old told AAP.

‘We’re vaccinated and everyone else here is too.

‘I’m getting used to being around people again. It’s still a bit weird but we snap back into things pretty quickly.’

Winner! One punter jumps for joy after celebrating a win at the races in Sydney on Tuesday

Might be time for a water? After a long day of celebrating this glamorous pair stop for a drink of water at Flemington Racecourse

Reaching new highs! One woman stood on a chair to get a better glimpse of the $8million race that stops the nation 

A pair of mates embrace as they celebrate the race that stops the nation at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse

Jumping for joy: The spirits were high as thousands turned out at both Sydney and Melbourne for the main event

Time for refreshments! A group of girls enjoyed a break from the action at Randwick 

Pictured: Two women walk through the Eagle Farm Racecourse in Brisbane, November 2

Another Melbourne local, 49-year-old Richard McGann, had similar feelings.

‘Finally opening up is fantastic,’ Mr McGann said.

‘This is beautiful … a bit weird, but it feels safe.’

Meanwhile, a collection of anti-lockdown protesters holding signs that read ‘Sack Dan Andrews’ and yelling ‘freedom’ marched through Footscray Park in Melbourne’s west towards the racecourse and then back again.

It was announced today that Sydney will lift more COVID-19 curbs for vaccinated residents ahead of schedule next week, while delaying freedoms it has promised for unvaccinated Sydneysiders as officials aim to boost inoculations.

Vaccinated people in the harbour city of around 5 million will be allowed unlimited numbers of guests in their homes from Nov. 8.

Pubs and clubs will also be able to accommodate more guests and reopen dance floors, in changes that were initially planned to come into force on December 1.

In contrast, unvaccinated people, who are currently barred from restaurants, non-critical retail stores, bars, gyms and other recreational facilities, will remain under the tougher restrictions until Dec. 15, or when New South Wales state’s double vaccination rate reaches 95%.

‘We have always wanted to open up in a measured way and incentivise vaccination rates,’ State Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters in Sydney.

Around 88% of the state’s population aged 16 and over has been fully vaccinated, but the first dose vaccination rate has been slowing as it nears 94%.

Australia on Monday lifted a ban on its residents flying overseas after more than 18 months and allowed quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated international travellers.

However, the changes initially affect only Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, with other states and territories targeting differing timelines for reopening. 

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