Monday, November 4, 2013

Melbourne Cup 2013: one huge money-spinner

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Thousands cheer Melbourne Cup Parade

Spectators line Swanston Street for the 30th annual Melbourne Cup parade, which went from Bourke Street to Federation Square.

PT0M48S 620 349 November 4, 2013 - 5:53PM

Could it be Gai Waterhouse's year? Who cares! With the thud of hooves on turf comes the ringing of cash registers across the land, no matter the victor.

The Melbourne Cup has become the excuse for - or the distraction from - a multimillion-dollar hootenanny that merely begins at a group of galloping horses.

Gambling remains resilient in the face of economic pressures. 

As Sydney's A-list decamps to the excesses of Melbourne's birdcage, with its espresso martinis, Arabian mezze platters and can-can girls, its B, C and D-listers have appointments of their own closer to home. Perhaps the city's biggest knees-up, drawing a predicted 25,000 people, is Royal Randwick's offering, an entire race day and all its trimmings centred around action on what is billed as the biggest super screen in the southern hemisphere. There's Moet & Chandon, a $20,000 super sweep and, because punting is punting, free transfers to the Star for a post-turf flutter.


They're off and running: Youngsters get a taste of Melbourne Cup frenzy in the colourful pre-race day parade on Monday. Photo: Penny Stephens

It might be a normal working day, but there's not a pub in Sydney that would risk not showing the race and reaping its fringe benefits, with more high entry fees, best-dressed prizes and meal-and-a-glass-of-bubbly packages than you can shake a horse's tail at. They don't come cheap. The Glenmore's tickets cost $119, Chiswick's $150. Sweethearts charges $100, Paddington Inn $55, Mrs Sippy $110 and Bungalow 8, $129. Palm Beach haunt Jonah's is charging $125. The Opera House's $220 tickets are all showiness and glitz, orchestrated by Aria's Matt Moran under its 40-year-old vaulted concrete.


The rampant commercialisation of what has always been a money-spinner is forecast to include a $1.2 billion splurge over the four days of spring carnival, up 5.6 per cent from last year, says Ibis World. Australians will place $15 million on the Cup with Sportingbet, $5 million from punters in NSW alone, most of those bets placed in the final few hours before the barriers open at 3pm.

Businessman John Singleton stands to collect more than $2.2 million from a $50,000 wager should his horse, Dear Demi, plus an additional $3.6 million in prizemoney. Each-way betting is up, thanks to a hugely competitive field, and many, many thousands will flow from and to high rollers from the Arabian Gulf, Russia and China, some of whom are special guests at Crown's track-side marquee. Then there are the style stakes. Hats, frocks, shoes, bags - entire department store marketing pushes are based solely around the 3½-minute race and its fringe fiestas. Fashion and beauty is tipped to outpace other spending around the carnival, up 13.9 per cent on the previous year to $53.2 million, says Ibis World.

As bouyant as the day is looking, cautious spending appears to be affecting some race-day habits. The Bayview Tavern in Gladesville expects about 450 race-day revellers, though manager Rod Pittorino said bookings have been slower than recent years, with ''people not wanting to commit''.

Gambling, on the other hand, traditionally remains resilient in the face of economic pressures.

Horses? Melbourne Cup is about fat cats. Because bets and bottom lines are what really count, even if Flemington is a few thousand kilometres away.
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