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:: 2017 VRC Spring Carnival - Kennedy Oaks Day

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Under brilliant sunshine, a crowd of 63,673 watched the first lady of racing Gai Waterhouse win her first $1 million Group 1 Kennedy Oaks, with her filly Pinot clinching the feature race in style at Flemington. Jockey Stephen Baster guided Pinot home delivering the victory for the training partnership of Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. Luke Currie was second on Bring Me Roses for Tony McEvoy, while third place went to trainer Mick Price with Hiyaam ridden by Michael Dee.

Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Interim Chief Executive Neil Wilson said it was wonderful to see VRC Ambassador Gai Waterhouse secure the win. “Gai is an icon of Australian racing and much loved by Flemington racegoers, and it’s great to see her add the Kennedy Oaks to her 2013 Emirates Melbourne Cup win. Melbourne delivered a picture perfect spring day to mark the first year of Kennedy’s sponsorship of Oaks Day, also known as Ladies Day. It was fantastic to see so many women enjoying Flemington in full bloom,” Mr Wilson said.

The quality undercard saw Hellova Street ridden by Brenton Avdulla secure the Group 3 TCL TV Stakes for Tasmanian-based trainer Scott Brunton, while jockey Hugh Bowman rode the Godolphin-owned Jorda to victory in the Group 3 Kennedy Plate Plate, and trainer Darren Weir took out the inaugural Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Final with Another Coldie ridden Damian Lane.

The Myer Fashions on the Field Women’s Racewear competition culminated with New South Wales winner Crystal Kimber reigning supreme, taking out the National Final. A floral embroidered skirt bequeathed to her by her grandmother and transformed into a dress by her mother was teamed with a pink turban-like headpiece, scoring Crystal the major prize, which included a Lexus RC 200t F Sport. Western Australia winner Annabel Davy was runner up. Sarah Hope Schofield won the prestigious invitation-only Millinery Award with a gravity-defying white, black and orange creation inspired by the concept of youth.

First lady of Rock n Roll Priscilla Presley headlined the international celebrities attending Kennedy Oaks Day, with the American actress a special guest of Kennedy in the Birdcage. Others in the exclusive marquees included Jennifer Hawkins and Rachael Finch at Myer, Daria Gavrilova at Emirates, and Marcia Hines and Kate Ceberano at Sensis, while sprint legend Usain Bolt returned for another Kennedy Oaks Day at Flemington.

It was quite a significant day for James Kennedy and his team as they had the naming rights to the Oaks Stakes for the first time in what is hoped to be a long partnership. I spoke to James inside his stylish marquee in the Birdcage and he said that having the Kennedy Oaks here today was a huge thrill and the culmination of something the family had been keen to pursue for some years. As it turned out Kennedy defeated Myer in the race to gain the Oaks naming rights and it will be at least a five year agreement. He was also very honoured to host Priscilla Presley as the special guest this year. Such is the standing of the “Presley” name, the biggest gathering of media for the whole carnival was for the arrival of Priscilla in the Birdcage. Security and Priscilla's tour promoter Ralph Carr had a battle getting through the media scrum as Priscilla approached the marquee entrance. It was one of the few real “star power” moments of the Carnival, where in days gone by there would be several big-time celebrities come to the Birdcage. Things have quietened in recent years especially since John Valmorbida left Lavazza. Lavazza had been “the” marquee to get to when the Valmorbida family hosted the marquee, but not anymore. Anyway, it was a real highlight for the Kennedy family on their big race day.

As mentioned earlier, Sensis Digital provided the musical entertainment highlights with Kate Ceberano and Marcia Hines. They were then joined by Ultra Nate, the American singer-songwriter who had some big hits in the late 90s. All three performers had the place rocking, and those having a great time included Dom Bagnato and his family, Stephen Bucknall, Jason Grech, Emily Simms, Alex Nation and Havana Brown. Schweppes continued its lively atmosphere with great food and beverages on offer plus G.H.Mumm continued its excellent hosting of champagne lovers. The comfortable lounge setting of Emirates was loved by guests including Jane Bunn, Matthew & Lisa Lloyd, Danielle Collis and former Miss World Australia Madeline Cowe.

To coincide with ‘Ladies Day’, Racing Victoria and the VRC paid tribute to women who have achieved sporting greatness at a special Celebrating Women in Sport event. Attendees included VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott, Emirates Melbourne Cup winning-trainer and VRC Ambassador Gai Waterhouse, Emirates Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne, swimming great Leisel Jones, and cycling legend Anna Meares.

More photos can be viewed here

Priscilla Presley was a guest of Kennedy
Priscilla Presley was a guest of Kennedy
Danielle Collis & Madeline Cowe in Emirates Bec Hewitt at Lavazza
Sahar Biniaz and friend at Lavazza Stephen Bucknall and Lin at Sensis
Tess Shanahan at Sensis Matthew & Lisa Lloyd at Emirates
Ultra Nate performing at Sensis
Kate Ceberano & Ultra Nate at Sensis
Kate Ceberano at Sensis
Kate Ceberano & Marcia Hines at Sensis
Havana Brown at Sensis
Emirates boss Barry Brown