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Downpour dampens Derby Day punters and anti-racing protests

She said business had been steady and expected it to improve throughout the day as the rain continued to fall.

Three protesters from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses are chanting “racing is cruel, barbaric and outdated” opposite the main gates.

Their chants have been drowned out by helicopters bringing in celebrities and high-flyers in what appears to be the easiest – and most rain-proof – way to arrive trackside.

There’s a strong police presence, with more than 10 officers dressed in long fluorescent raincoats watching the protesters.

First-time protester Tracey said she was braving the wild weather conditions as she was a “concerned human being”.

She urged racegoers to “do their research” after a damning investigation by the ABC’s 7.30 Report uncovered acts of animal cruelty, with allegations hundreds of Australian racehorses are being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Jessica Moro and Claudia Del Solar arrive for a wet Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse.

Jessica Moro and Claudia Del Solar arrive for a wet Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“I’m just an average person, I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said.

“No animal deserves to suffer for someone’s party.”

Protesters gathering at the entrance gates on Epsom Road said they had hoped about 60 people would turn up to campaign against racing, but expected it could be closer to 30 due to the poor weather.

They were well outnumbered by already wet racegoers entering the course, with most not even casting a second glance at them.

Racing lover Julie said the rain wouldn’t dampen punters spirits for the week-long carnival.

Walking through Flemington’s famed rose arches to the entry gates, she said she felt disappointed for the groundskeepers, after heavy rains overnight on Friday left petals strewn across the walkway in mushy piles.

Despite the colourful roses looking worse for wear, Julie said a bit of rain wouldn’t deter the hardcore punters.

“Melburnians will always have a good time anyway, despite the weather,” she said.

At 11am it was 17 degrees trackside, with water from earlier heavy rains pooling in walkways and stairwells.

By mid-afternoon the lines for a drink in the general admission area were snaking through the damp crowds as thirsty punters queue up for a tipple.

Punters were getting more raucous as the day continued – race-by-race they roared louder, cheering the horses home down Flemington’s famous straight.

The slippery floors proved tricky for some who may have started imbibing early in the day – one poor lady’s once white dress turned a murky shade of brown on the backside after she took a tumble walking down a set of stairs.

She laughed the fall off with her mates, and cried “to the bar!”

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