"The 5 things I learnt from going to Derby Day."

If you’re heading to the races this year, take note.

I’ve always been a big fan of the races. A few years ago, I even fooled a whole radio station full of listeners into thinking that I sort of knew something about how to back a winner as I broadcast my tips each Saturday morning.

I didn’t. I knew nothing, except that most of the horses I picked would somehow miraculously win.

So when I was invited as a guest of Tourism Victoria to attend Derby Day in Melbourne last year, I just assumed I would win all the money and fly back to Sydney a billionaire. Didn’t quite happen like that. What did happen, however, was that I left Melbourne poor but armed with a handful of tips for anyone heading to the races this year.

Here are all of my embarrassing lessons learned.

1. Find a hat that won’t blow off your head.

Melbourne is COLD. Much colder than Sydney, and much, much colder than my hometown of Brisbane. I arrived with a beautiful fascinator that I purchased from Myer only to spend most of the day (and the water taxi ride over there) holding onto it with one hand as wind ravaged my supposedly flawless ensemble. Fail.

2. Don’t blow all your money on the first few races.

It was so hard not to put down bets for each race, but I held off until the last few – they’re the only ones that matter anyway, right?

You’ll be happier at the end of the day if you still have a few dollars to bet before bowing out and heading home, broke and sad.

3. Don’t eat a big breakfast.

Arriving in the very exclusive, probably made out of gold, Rose Room at Flemington Racecourse was a dream. As was the constant stream of food available to us. I ate more in those few hours than any Christmas day binge. And every plate was finished off with a few glasses of champagne.

This was the first of many, many meals that day. It was like, fancy fetta and carrots and some rice bubbles I think.

4. Walk through The Birdcage with your head down.

My favourite part of the day was leaving our exclusive area and heading to The Birdcage. If you know anything about the Aussie race season, this is where the celebrities hang out. This roughly translates to Neighbours stars, Bachelorettes and someone from The X Factor. But it’s still pretty exciting. The special guest last year was Solange Knowles, a few months post-elevator incident, and I spotted her from across the D-floor.


The fact is, everyone’s at least a D-grade celebrity in there so chances are you’ll be mistaken for one too at first glance. Sneak your way in (or go in legitimately) and run around. You’ll probably be papped by the Daily Mail.

XXX at the XXX Marquee on Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse on November 1, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.
Solange Knowles arriving at Derby Day last year for a super important DJ set. Image via Getty.

5. Dress comfortably. And conform to the dress codes.

I went through three dresses before finally picking one that worked for Derby Day. The theme is black and white – and everyone will stare at you if you wear colours. It’s also important to know that your outfit can’t be too short and there can be no crop tops or midriffs showing. They won’t let you in otherwise.

Hopefully you’ll come away with some cash, a champagne-induced headache and your dignity still intact.

Caitlin travelled to Melbourne and attended Derby Day as a guest of Tourism Victoria.