Connected through a shared love of racing

14 July 2022 Written by Sarah Marinos

While they come from all walks of life, VRC members have a number of things in common – a love of horses, quality racing, stylish fashion and fine dining. The Melbourne Cup Carnival brings the best of these worlds together and is one of the busiest and most thrilling times of the year for the members who flock to Flemington. We speak to some of our longest-standing members, and some who represent the younger generation, and discover what being part of the VRC community means to them.

Marcia Hill

Marcia Hill has been a familiar figure at Flemington, Moonee Valley and Caulfield since the 1960s. Her parents introduced Marcia to racing and she quickly developed a passion for the sport. The former model met her late husband, respected bookmaker Sidney Hill, at Moonee Valley and they were married for 50 years.

“I love everything about racing – the people, the characters, the horses, the fashion ... I’ve been to race meetings all over the world, including the Kentucky Derby in the US and races in Greece,
France, Italy and England. I love the atmosphere at the track.

Initially, because women couldn’t be members in their own right, I relied on my parents to get me a member’s lady’s ticket. Things used to be quite different for women at the races. A white line divided men from women in the members area and women weren’t allowed to cross that line. I remember being so proud when I was able to become a member in the 1980s.

I particularly enjoy the races in Melbourne because everyone is glammed up. I love the fashion, but you don’t see as many big hats these days. I think the 1960s and 1970s were particularly good eras for fashion. I like to look around and see what people are wearing – but after that, it’s on to Race One.

My favourite moments are when I back a big winner! I had a good win on Vow And Declare a few years ago. I make a decision about which horse to back once I’ve seen them. I don’t back a horse with bandages on and I like to see the colour of their skin and the size of their backside – because I think that’s where the strength comes from!

I consider it to be a privilege to be a VRC member. I’ll be back at Flemington as soon as we’re allowed to be there.”

Nicole Hall

Nicole Hall has been a VRC member for 16 years. For her, membership brings opportunities to witness some racing history, to dress up and enjoy some wonderful food with friends, and to get up close to the racing action on the rails.

“I love everything that racing brings – the atmosphere, the beautiful horses and the relationship they have with their owner, rider and trainer. I appreciate the work that goes into training them and it has been a highlight to watch some of the wins at Flemington, like those of Winx, Makybe Diva and Black Caviar.

I enjoy the social aspect of racing and being a member, too. One of my favourite events is the Oaks Club Lunch. I’ve been for the past six years and go with some special people who also love racing. I often take that week off and have five days immersed in the racing culture. It’s the
build-up to the Spring Carnival that I also enjoy. It’s all about working out what to wear, which
hat to wear and which shoes are comfortable enough to remain in all day.

On New Year’s Day, one of my oldest friends who introduced me to the VRC and I go to The Byerley to kick off the year. When I go to the races with my parents we go to The Atrium – Dad loves being outside near the winning post to watch the races and we have lunch and make a day of it. I like to end the day in the Champagne Bar after the races.

I think Melbourne does events so well. The AFL Grand Final is the start of waking up from winter – it’s coming out of hibernation – and then comes the Spring Racing Carnival and it’s all about racing and Flemington. As members, we have such amazing facilities and we’re all looking forward to being able to take advantage of those again.”

Joscelyn Langdon

Joscelyn Langdon was an inaugural Terrace member and remains a regular racegoer. Each season she carefully plans her racewear and is a fan of Paris-based Melbourne designer Martin Grant, and renowned international milliner Philip Treacy.

“I’ve been a VRC member for 26 years. Before that, I had a guest pass as my father was a member. I’ve been going to the races for more than 50 years though – I was at Flemington when the white line kept the ladies on one side of the venue and the gentlemen on the other.

My father had horses and I’d go out when he had a runner. I loved the races because it was a place where you could dress up and admire the style of other women, like Marcia Hill. I had a business with hair and beauty colleges and so I was always interested in the styles of the time.

I would go overseas before Spring Carnival to buy a few outfits. I won Fashions on the Field in 1986 wearing a black Bernard Perris outfit from Paris and a Wendy Mead hat. Lillian Frank was a judge and I won a trip to America, money and other gifts.

I still put time into my outfits. I wore a lot of Valentino, but now get garments from an Australian designer in Paris called Martin Grant. I shop at Christine in Collins Street and choose my outfits a season ahead – always keeping in mind the changeable Melbourne
weather, though!

As much as the fashions, I love the racing. We have our own stud property and I love watching my horses run – that’s always a thrill. I like to see the horses groomed and prepared for the Carnival and I enjoy seeing friends at the races, too. I keep a table at the Terrace Restaurant and look forward to taking friends with me. They’re always amazed by the views there. My time with the VRC is definitely among my best memories.”

Judith Dunn

Judith Dunn has enjoyed racing since the mid- 1960s and became a member in 1985. She has not only enjoyed being at Flemington, but has been on international tours with the VRC.

“I was at Flemington on Derby Day in 1965 when the English model, Jean Shrimpton, attended the races. She looked very smart but was in a white minidress and didn’t wear any stockings. Everyone was aghast! She was beautiful – but probably not dressed for the races.

Another memorable moment was in the 1970s when we were washed out totally. And I also remember taking a friend from New York to the races and he asked what the white line on the floor was for. When I told him it was to segregate the women and men he thought I was joking. He couldn’t believe that was possible in the 1970s.

I was delighted to become a member and I made use of the trips the VRC ran. I’ve been to the Hong Kong Cup several times and to the Japan Cup, and I’ve been on the VRC tours of the Hunter Valley and Victorian studs. I like the invitations to the Inside Headquarters nights, too. I like listening to the speakers and the information you gain from.

I used to go to the races with friends every Saturday before the COVID restrictions and I miss being there. I watch the races on television but it’s not the same – I miss the atmosphere. It’s exciting to meet friends at Flemington and watch the races together. I like to have a seat in the Atrium Stand and watch the races from there. I do bet, but I don’t bet a lot – or lose a lot.”

James and Lachlan Goller

James and Lachlan Goller, 23, became junior VRC members ten years ago and at the age of 18, they both decided to become full members. During the Spring Racing Carnival, they divide their time at Flemington between family and friends.

James: “I love being at the races – everyone is in a good mood and the energy during the Spring Racing Carnival is fantastic, so when I turned 18, I wanted to remain a VRC member.

My parents and my Aunty – my Mum’s sister – have gone to the races for as long as I can remember. It’s a ritual that happens every year with my family and their friends. They set up in The Rails car park for a few days and the atmosphere is always great. My Aunty does the catering and her burger sliders are the best. I’ve had great times and great memories in The Rails.

Winning on the punt is always great and I study the form a little, but as much as the racing I enjoy the social side of being part of the VRC. I go with friends for a couple of days, too, and we meet for a few pre-drinks at a venue or a house beforehand. Once we get to Flemington, we usually go to The Club Stand to watch the racing and then head to The Nursery or The Rails. The Roof Garden is a great spot too – you have views of the city, the track and the horses finish right in front of you.

For me, being at Flemington during the Carnival is the pinnacle of horse racing in Australia. I like the competition and barracking for a horse and jockey when I’ve placed a bet.

Lachlan: “Dad introduced me to the races when I was three or four years old – I haven’t missed many Spring Racing Carnivals since then. I’ve got memories from way back of family days in The Rails car park and I still look forward to those days.

As a kid, I remember watching the horses go past and the colourful silks of the jockeys. I remember one year the car parked next to us ran out of beers and I sold them some beers from our Esky – Dad wasn’t too happy about it!

On the days I’m with my family I help Dad pack the car the night before. My parents get to Flemington and start setting up in The Rails car park and I get there about 11am and help. Then we spend the day together, and with family friends we’ve known for a long time. My Aunty is a magnificent cook and brings most of the food. We’re very lucky.

I also spend a few days with friends, and I became a member of the VRC myself because the races are not only a great sporting event, but also a great social event. Flemington is a great place to bring friends, watch the best racing, enjoy the entertainment and have a good time. Not all of my friends are VRC members and I feel quite proud to be able to show them around. I’ve had friends visit from interstate in previous years and they’re always impressed by Flemington.

I’ve got favourite spots at Flemington to enjoy the races and the spectacle. I like The Rails, the new Club Stand and The Roof Garden. When I want to socialise, you can’t beat The Nursery. There’s no place I’d rather be than at Flemington during the Carnival, surrounded by like-minded people who are passionate about the racing.”