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Punters swap the city for the outback

Melbourne Cup day is one of first-class racing and fashion parades which set the upcoming trends of the season.

But while Flemington puts on its best show for racegoers, thousands of people will be veering away from the city and celebrating in the outback.

Wentworth, a town of 1200 people, doubles in population for its once-a-year race meeting where punters trade in fine dining and cocktails for picnics on the edge of the red dirt track.

“It is just a great, relaxed family day,” Wentworth Racing Club Secretary Breeon Cole says.

The NSW-Victorian border town has been home to racing for more than 150 years and its showground is one of many across the country to hold meetings to coincide with the Melbourne Cup.

This year, 14 meetings are planned in NSW, 14 in Queensland, six in Victoria, three in Western Australia, two in the Northern Territory and one each in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

Cole says punters travel for hundreds of kilometres by plane, 4-wheel drive, bus and van to crowd the local showground on the first of November.

“There is nothing too corporate about it and people just come from all over to enjoy and catch up with people who they may have met the previous year,” Cole said.

“There is plenty of green grass and shade for people to come along and have a picnic.”

It’s a big event on the town’s social calendar with five local races and men and women alike frantically planning their best attire to compete in Fashions on the Field.

While people usually rush to find shade in the hot month of November, this year’s temperatures are predicted to reach a surprising low of 20 degrees.

“That will be a bit of a change for us,” Cole said.

“Normally we are all sweating and seeking the shade and this year we might be trying to source the sun.”

Cole said while the 150-year anniversary in 2012 was a stand-out, each year has its unique moments with this year’s celebrations already shaping up to be a one of the biggest yet.

“Every year is special, especially once the Wentworth Cup is run and won and you get to celebrate with the trainer and jockey. They are the special moments,” she said.

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