Boxing Day races riot of fashion and fun

The New Zealand Herald Boxing Day races at Ellerslie yesterday were the most successful on record, with more than 20,000 people taking advantage of the fine weather.

Due to the popularity of the event, raceday organisers decided to stop general admission entries after 3pm - the first time such a call had been made at the event.

The big race of the day, the Group I $200,000 Zabeel Classic, was won by Soriano, ridden by Rory Hutchings.

The Group II $100,000 Cambridge Stud Eight Carat Classic went to the Savabeel filly Saavoya, a $32 outsider. She was ridden by Craig Grylls.

And the $50,000 Hallmark Stud was won by Natuzzi, ridden by Chris Johnson.

Far from the foaming horses, discarded plastic wine glasses, RTDs and hot dogs was the Nicolas Feuillatte Fashions in the Field contest, characterised by suits, sunglasses, outlandish headpieces and bold floral prints.

The overall winner and winner of the Natalie Chan Millinery category, dietician Charlotte Moor, 25, said she had crafted her off-the-shoulder dress from vintage fabric with the help of her mother, Ali, a milliner who also made her fascinator.

The touch of turquoise in the headpiece was referenced with a turquoise necklace and shoes.

"She found some fantastic fabric on eBay and then it was a bit of a joint effort trying to figure out what the dress was going to look like and what we could do for the hat to match it."

Ms Moor said she would be sharing her $30,000 prize package, including a trip to Queenstown, with her mother.

The event was judged by stylist Lulu Wilcox, Australian model Becky Lamb and The Crowd Goes Wild presenter Hayley Holt, who said she enjoyed her first foray into fashion judging.

"I think it's a lot of fun, you can just really go outrageous with it. I mean, who's going to be wearing these crazy things on their heads every day, it's great."

The winner of the Canvas Ladies Racewear category - open to women aged 25 to 44 - was Claire Hahn, 33, who said her son had chosen her bold red ankle-length skirt, which she coupled with a sleeveless dark blue top she had made for the day.

Mrs Hahn completed her raceday outfit with an Alexander McQueen bag, a Christmas gift from her husband, and a hat she crafted herself.

It was Mrs Hahn's second fashion in the field win, having taken out the younger age category "eight years and three kids" ago.

Winner of the Ellerslie Under 25 category, Eleanor Campbell, 19, came to the races from Hamilton wearing a blue floral Chi Chi London dress her grandmother had altered. White lace gloves and a teal Monika Neuhauser fascinator completed the look.

She shared the runway with her grandmother, Val Harman, who was also a finalist in the Specsavers Ascot Lady category - open to women 45 years and over.

"We're all a bit keen on fashion," Ms Harman said. "We've got a lot of ideas from Ellie's mother - she was last year's supreme winner."

Ms Harman said she made her own dress, white with a bold floral print. "It started off as two dresses so I created it into something that was more appropriate for my age."

Their race day preparations had taken the shine off Christmas, she said. "I was still sewing this morning and I thought I couldn't eat anything yesterday at Christmas dinner."

The Boxing Day Races are the first event of the New Zealand Herald Christmas Carnival, followed by Summer Raceday tomorrow and the New Year's Day Races.

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