Randwick might be a construction zone but on Melbourne Cup day it promises to the centre of the racing universe for twenty-six horses, 12 trainers and seven jockeys.
Picnic racing, part of the fabric of rural communities in Australia, makes its annual return to Sydney but this time it is Randwick not Rosehill where the meeting is to be held.
And it will be trainers like Debbie Prest who will putting on the thoroughbred action for Sydney’s eastern suburbs’ social set.
“All my horses are second-hand, I only get the rejects,” Prest said, ensuring any glamour at Randwick won’t be of the equine variety.
A contract postal worker who travels up to 1000km a week to deliver mail to villages near her home town of Young in south-west NSW, Prest races a team of four horses on the state’s picnic circuit.
Her racing is a family affair because her daughter Rebecca is an amateur jockey who rides her runners.
“Rebecca works for a trainer at Muswellbrook so going to the races each weekend gives us a chance to catch up with each other,” she said.
Prest says being one of the trainers involved in a triple dead-heat at Cowra has been a career highlight but a Randwick win might surpass that moment.
“It would certainly be a big thrill to win a race there,” she said.
“Racing is my sport and I’ve never had any aspirations to be a top-line trainer or anything.”
Her two runners at Randwick, Yassi and Delago Maximus, have collectively raced almost 50 times without winning.
“I would especially love to win a race with Delago Maximus,” she said. “He’s such a lovely horse.”
But quizzed for a Melbourne Cup day tip, Prest said it would be pointless asking about how her horses will perform.
“I don’t read the formguide and, guess what, horses don’t either,” she said.
Five races will be run on the hallowed turf of the Randwick course proper with horses competing for a total of $22,000 in stakes – more than $100,000 less than connections receive for owning the 10th-placed horse in the Melbourne Cup.