Illawarra celebrates Melbourne Cup Day 2016: photos, video

Melbourne Cup Day attracted thousands of stylish, cheerful punters to a sun-drenched Kembla Grange racecourse on Tuesday.

“The last couple of years have been a little disappointing but today it looks like a crowd of about 5500, which we’re really happy to achieve,” said Kembla Grange racing manager Michael Craig.

“They’re more orderly than they used to be.”

It seemed untidy drunks and silly costumes missed the invite this year, replaced by neatly dressed men and women sipping on champagne and downing tinnies.

“There’s more of a theme on fashions at the races these days, so people are starting to copy what they’re doing at Flemington and Randwick,” Mr Craig said.

Out on the lawn a group of friends from southern Sydney were among many who set up a picnic of dips, crackers and spreads with a view to the finish line.

When asked why not go to Sydney, Peter Birchall of Engadine said the atmosphere was far better in Wollongong so he’s been coming here for six years straight.

“At Randwick it’s just over the top, this is down to earth,” added Dianne Weatherall, also from Engadine.

Like many people on Cup Day, none of them had any theoretical ways of backing a winner except they liked a name, the jockey’s colours, the number or any Australian horse in the draw.

Couple John Capotosto from Shellharbour and Louise Cooper of Figtree became regulars to Kembla Grange after the pair first met at the track.

“We met here four years ago and we’ve been back every year since,” Ms Cooper said.

Just before 3pm the betting hall and inside bars began to clear as patrons merged outside to watch the big screen with the race that stops a nation.

Shelby Reay, Heidi McLean, Shannon Hancock and Connor Lotherington at Kembla Grange. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Shelby Reay, Heidi McLean, Shannon Hancock and Connor Lotherington at Kembla Grange. Photo: Sylvia Liber

On the hour, cheers were heard from the field as the horses bolted from the barriers, the echoes dropping off until about halfway into the race when the yells of encouragement picked up pace again.

With 1000 metres to go the Wollongong crowd was going wild with the main words audible through the screams: “go, go faster”.

Andrew Drapaniotis from Port Kembla jumped and cried out with joy when the official winners were displayed on the screen.

“Somebody give me a kiss,” he yelled as he grabbed his mates in a big group hug.

Mr Drapaniotis said he was elated just to make a win, considering he was already down around $300. 

Putting $85 on Almandin proved fruitful, with NSW TAB dividends paying $12.30 for a win.

Instead of putting his winnings on more bets or champagne, “in the bank” was the response given.

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