Let the Carnival begin!
Anticipation for what promises to be yet another spectacular week of world-class horse racing and events reached its peak as the 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival was ushered in during the official launch on Monday.
VRC Chairman, Neil Wilson, shared insights in an interview with RSN, shedding light on the racing legacy steeped in tradition, history, and international prestige, while also underscoring the broader significance of this iconic event and, of course, that all-important Melbourne weather forecast.
Officially launched by Eddie McGuire on Monday morning, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is unparalleled, and Wilson was eager to emphaise the meticulous planning, dedication, and hard work that goes into the event, as countless people are involved to ensure that every aspect runs seamlessly.
Joining McGuire at today’s launch were racing legends Gai Waterhouse, Damien Oliver, Michelle Payne and many more. Within this trio alone there lies an abundance of captivating stories, and Wilson hopes this will continue. “Today we start the journey by talking about where we’re at, where we’ve been and certainly, where we’re heading.”
Wilson highlighted the exciting developments still to come through this week, including the launches of The Birdcage, the reveal of The Park, and all of the many and new exciting things happening this Carnival.
As well as drawing new racegoers to the races, Wilson emphasised how important the VRC members are. “We've just clicked over an all-time record number of members. We’re actually the largest membership club of any race and club in the world, which we are very proud of. We'd expect this year that there’ll be a lot of our members enjoying the four days of the Carnival and we certainly make sure the facilities for our members are where they need to be.”
The iconic Fashions on the Field competition has gone global this year, with two winners being flown in from the US and New Zealand. With $350,000 in prizemoney up for grabs, Wilson said he expected a great turn-out once again.
Along with the main stage in The Park featuring musical acts as The Corrs, Jon Stevens and The Rogue Traders, the new Palooza precinct in The Nursery is a way to engage with younger racegoers, Wilson explained. “We have over 250 performances from artists, including a lot of Australian artists.”
The Birdcage is once again shaping up to be the hottest ticket in town, which Wilson says is being “amped up” and integrated more and more with the members’ Rails precinct.
Discussing attendance and ticket sales, Wilson is pleased with the numbers so far, especially in the corporate area, stating that there is a record number of corporate engagement across various facilities, including new ones that have been created for 2023.
All eyes are on the weather, of course, with the forecast playing a pivotal role in attendance numbers. Wilson confessed: “We’re all hovering over the weather reports at the moment, it’s like horoscopes, and we are finding the one that we like and believing that’s the one that's going to happen!”
Regarding attendance, he concedes that the days of 100,000 plus at a race day are probably over, and that the VRC hopes for around 250,000 people across the four days instead, a number that aligns with the values of the club and the Carnival experience. “[High numbers] are not what we build the Carnival for. Now we’ve learned, as other sporting organisations have learned, that you need to create an experience the people want to come back for.”
Touching on the charitable side of the Carnival, Wilson highlighted the VRC’s ongoing connection with their Pin & Win partner, the Australian Childhood Foundation, and explained that this year’s Kennedy Oaks Day will ‘turn purple’ for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal.
“We’re making Oaks Day more of a community engagement day,” said Wilson. “We believe that it will just take it to another level in terms of contribution.”
Discussing the international visitors gracing Flemington, Wilson said despite him not riding during Cup Week, the VRC can’t wait to host champion jockey Frankie Detttori who’ll be sure to bring a lot of fun to proceedings. British jockey Hollie Doyle will also be here, and with a ride on Ciaron Maher and Dave Eustace's Future History in the Cup, she could become the first international female rider to win the prestigious race.
Thirty years since Vintage Crop won the Melbourne Cup, starting the ‘internationalisation’ of the race, it is fitting that even more internationals are returning – both horses and jockeys – this year to compete. Wilson highlighted that it is “a wonderful dimension that we’d lost through COVID and built back up.” It’s not just on track that there will be a global presence, however, as Flemington will also welcome spectators travelling from Europe, Japan and the United States to attend the Carnival.
Experience the Magic of the 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival
Prepare for a truly unforgettable Cup Week, where equine athleticism meets Melbourne style in a spectacular showcase of thoroughbred excellence. Be there to experience the magic trackside as new champions etch their names into racing folklore. Tickets still available, don't miss out!.