Fur back in fashion as hardy Warrnambool racegoers adapt to cold weather

Ladies Lunch fashion placegetters (from left) Kristen Lenehan, 3rd,  winner Leah Habel and Samantha Davis, 2nd.
Ladies Lunch fashion placegetters (from left) Kristen Lenehan, 3rd, winner Leah Habel and Samantha Davis, 2nd.

Reporter RACHAEL HOULIHAN and photographer ROB GUNSTONE found plenty of style and colour at Warrnambool racecourse yesterday.

IT was all about the girls on the first day of the TAB May Racing Carnival as colourful ensembles at the ladies’ luncheon created a pleasant contrast to the bleak weather outside.

More than 500 women attended the event which featured a question and answer session with racing’s first lady Gai Waterhouse and a fashions on the field competition.

Face of the Carnival Laura Kelly and south-west milliner Jodi Fry crowned Koroit’s Leah Habel the best dressed for the day.

Miss Habel, a noted fashions on the field contender, backed up her win after placing first at last year’s races in the Thursday competition.

Attention to detail was key in selecting an outfit for the races, Miss Habel said.

The equestrian rider compared it to winning the famed Garryowen turnout class at the Royal Melbourne Show.

“I always dress for the weather first of all,” she said.

“My outfits are quite traditional and Kate Middleton and Audrey Hepburn are my style icons.” 

Miss Habel wore a cream-and-black coat dress she sourced from the United Kingdom and a matching headpiece made by Warrnambool milliner Sharon Wilson.

She said her nanna, Judy Brockway-Garner, added some embellishments to the coat to make it a stand-out piece. She has another outfit ready to compete in tomorrow’s fashions competition.

Runner-up, Warrnambool’s Samantha Davis, sourced her outfit from Cobden fashion house Blue Wren, while third place was awarded to Kristen Lenehan of Garvoc.

Luncheon compere and jockey Casey Bruce did more than just talk about racing when she rushed off to ride in race four, on board Daryl Cannon’s two-year-old filly Street Pride. She changed from her coral pink crocheted dress and matching fascinator into her jockey silks, then enjoyed a well-deserved shower and change back before a quick make-up touch up, ready to recommence her duties.

“There was no mud on my face. I tactically went forward so I wouldn’t need a facial,” she explained to the amazed crowd.

The fun of the carnival is what keeps Bruce coming back each year.

“As a country carnival it is the benchmark,” she said.

“It goes to show, especially with Gai (Waterhouse) coming down, that it is a leading carnival. It’s a real testament to Warrnambool.”

Waterhouse was impressed with the quality of fashion on display at the luncheon.

“The fashion here is very good,” she said.

“I think I would be very hard pressed to find the best dressed.” 

She was up at 3am to watch her horses train at Flemington, before flying down to Warrnambool

Outside of the luncheon, punters donned coats, gloves and beanies to keep warm.

Bookmaker Cam McCutcheon kept out of the elements, setting up his site under a tree.

“This is the first time in 35 years that I have had to wrap up in a blanket,” he said.

Heather and Tony McGinty made the trip from their station property Wallangarra, at Ivanhoe, New South Wales, especially to watch the jumps racing.

“We come every year,” Mr McGinty said.

“We love the races, especially the jumps. That’s what brings us here. I doubt whether you would get the crowds here without the jumps.”


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