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Katherine Stewart was just having a birthday punt on the Melbourne Cup when she won on Green Moon.

“It’s a great gift,” she told AAP amid a hollering crowd at Randwick racecourse in Sydney.

Not so for TV presenter and model Zoe Balbi, ambassador of the spring carnival, who was blaming fiance and Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall for giving her bad tips for the second year in a row.

“I’ve had bad luck this year – Americain, Ethiopia and Maluckyday,” she said.

“I wasn’t lucky today so Benji will not hear the end of that, he gave me my hot tips.”

Although Randwick has staged limited race meetings this year due to a $150 million dollar refurbishment which resulted in Sydney’s main Melbourne Cup day program being moved to Rosehill, the picnic races still drew a small but enthusiastic crowd of 7000.

Balbi said this was her first Cup day experience at Randwick.

“At the Epsom (Handicap at Randwick in October) we were right next to the track and could feel the tremble on the ground and the wind in your face (as the horses passed),” she said.

“We don’t have that here today, with the hype of the Melbourne Cup (which is) something magical to experience … it’s a different level here but we put on an equally good party.”

And in the Chandon tent, guests could be forgiven for forgetting a refurbishment was underway as miniature horses weighing only 80kg paraded around a champagne bottle fountain.

Outside, bookmaker Les Earle, who has worked the past 15 Melbourne Cup days at Randwick, said this year was more subdued than usual.

“I’ve worked at the same stand in the same spot and this has probably been the quietest, (but) I always enjoy it,” he said.

But birthday winner Katherine Stewart said the smaller crowd offered other ways to win.

“You can get a seat, you can get a drink, and you can go to the toilet,” Stewart said.

“For a lady, that is the trifecta.”

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