The rise and rise of female racegoers
A University of Western Sydney researcher says the big turnout of women at last weekend's Girls Day Out at Rosehill shows how racing meets have moved back to their colonial roots by focusing on festivities over gambling.
Dr Wayne Peake, from the UWS Centre for Cultural Research, says the success of Oaks Day during Melbourne Cup Week, Girls Day Out and similar events targeted at women have persuaded other race club marketing executives to pursue the same strategies.
"Women now flock to the enclosures at big race meets, enclosures that used to be dominated by men who were there for the sole purpose of betting," he says.
"By providing rock groups, celebrity appearances and awards for best fashion and costumes, clubs are now tacitly acknowledging that the races themselves aren't sufficient attraction. For example, Saturday's Rosehill meeting featured the men of the NSW Fire Brigade calendar as an added attraction for racegoers."
Dr Peake says the change in race day events is a throwback to the early 19th century, when big meets were often holidays, and locals would spend the day socialising and getting very drunk.
"Race days back then often only had four races, which much of the crowd would barely be able to see, so it was natural for the men, women and children to enjoy the stalls and other activities on offer," he says.
Dr Peake says those days came to an end at the start of the last century with the rise of professional gamblers and bookmakers, and the discouragement of children and women from many urban racecourses.
But he says the industry has now come full circle.
"Regular, live televising of racing in clubs and pubs from the late 1980's, and the gradual decline of the on-course betting ring lead many regular gamblers to retreat from the track, and woman have filled the vacuum," Dr Peake says.
"Nowadays many racegoers are ignorant of betting options and other aspects of racecourse culture, such as the importance of weight and barrier positions, but they seem to have a good time nonetheless."
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