Yet again, we’re in the middle of the spring racing carnival. And, like every other year, there is so much that is questionable: questionable style choices, questionable volume of alcohol consumption, questionable behaviour and — not least — questionable sincerity from anti-racing activists.
Now, I’m not having a crack at the races. I like frocks, ponies and risk. Truth be told, I’m not much of a drinker. Not because I’m a wowser but because I’ve partied enough for several lifetimes — thankfully most of which occurred before the prevalence of smartphone cameras — and I just don’t pull up like I used to.
Every large event attracts a cross-section of society, and accordingly, a cross-section of behavioural standards. Unfortunately, there is something about spring racing which just seems to magnify our shortcomings. It’s like the Olympics games of indecent and hypocritical behaviour, hosted by Randwick and Flemington, where the Aussies clean sweep the medals.
The most amusing part of any race day is watching the decline in people’s behaviour as the event progresses. Ladies who arrive all dolled up, are slaughtered drunk before lunch, squatting in a bathroom basin by 2.00 pm, blowing a footy player behind a partition fence by 3.00 pm, and are stumbling out of the venue, shoes in hand, at the end of the day. The boys don’t fare much better regardless whether they arrive in Zegna or their best three-piece acid yellow suit — tailored in Bali of course. They arrive full of charming bravado, are equally sozzled before lunch, lose their wallet by 2.00 pm, pass out and have a dick drawn on their face by 3.00 pm, and are then carried out of the venue by their mates, ready to hit the cas, at the end of the day. Such is race day elegance in Australia.
Then we have the influencers and celebrities, who spend most of the year telling us to consider our carbon footprint and care about climate change, hang out in massive airconditioned tents powered by diesel generators. Their weeks’ worth of outfits — most of which are borrowed and return ruined — leaves a fashion waste footprint the size of Texas (and let’s not forget the sore hands of those children who worked around the clock beading their handmade couture garments in some faraway atelier).
Of course, if they are a WAG or reality TV personality, couture is pronounced ker-choo-wa as that pronunciation during their interview for commercial TV helps to ram home to the girls they went to high school with just how far they’ve managed to vault up the social ladder. Oh, and if she tells you her frock was made in Europe, that means Albania, not Italy – if it was Italy, she’d say so.
The fashions on the field is the crack-hit of race far-shun. The Derby Day men’s fashions on the field winners brought to our attention one thing and one thing only: that there is an apparent lack of socks in Melbourne. I don’t care if your black patent loafers are current season John Lobb. Please have some dignity and wear socks. You don’t look stylish, you look absent-minded. And there is always that one woman making a political statement in frock emblazoned with ‘the future is female’ replete with a dead bush chook on her head. And by bush chook, I mean actual avian genocide fashioned into a headpiece, not an Emu Export hat. There are also plenty of those, but they are in general admission.
But my most piercing views are spared for the anti-racing activists. Those over-indulged middle-class designer street kids who are virulent about change so long as it only affects other people. They consider racing barbaric because it’s behaviour they don’t like which is occurring in front of them. Compare this to mining rare earths for use in their smartphones, which is totally fine, because the kids being used as forced labour don’t pollute their direct line of sight. Like most recent examples of activism, these anti-racing activists mostly don’t care about horses, and whether they are harmed or not, they just want to disrupt our way of life. If they cared about animals, they would rail against halal slaughter. But no, total silence on that front.
There might be the occasional staunch lifetime vegan but most have eaten a steak (those usually come from cows), own a pair of leather shoes (also cows) or a leather couch (yep, you guessed it, cows). And notice they only care about the racehorses – no mention of the more obvious cruelty caused by the abovementioned avian genocide or the veritable parade of Chanel lambskin flap bags. More silence. I guess all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. And bet your last dollar, if you still have one come 4.00 pm, that most of them would temper their concerns for the horses if they could score a ticket to the Birdcage.
Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting animal cruelty is okay, nor am I suggesting that we go back to the days of starched frocks, satin gloves and doily hats as race day uniform, followed by 6.30 evening mass. All I’m saying is can we be a little more sophisticated. Please. We can be cheeky and have fun without being a-grade hypocrites, without assaulting police officers, and without flashing our boobs to the guys on their footy trip.
Why does it matter? Because hypocrisy, violence and obscene behaviour rarely enhance social occasions. And authenticity always carries the day, even if by our very nature, we are a little rough around the edges.
Caroline Di Russo is a lawyer, businesswomen and unrepentant nerd.
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