Yes, that is a snap-worthy white-and-gold champagne cart serving Ice Imperial (Moet & Chandon's sweeter sip) during the Caulfield Cup Carnival in the ticketed Moet & Chandon Lawn. Nearby, the fashionable set are sprawled across white couches, while others are taking selfies on the gold-coloured Carousel horses set up just for Instagramming purposes. Food is by Tommy Collins; champagne is flowing all day. And, three skips across the path, there's more.
In the exclusive Heath enclosure during the BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival, it's hard to figure out what offering holds the most appeal.
A break with conventions
This is the second year that Melbourne Racing Club's Chief Commercial Officer Peta Webster has been shaking things up with the debut of entirely new areas in the VIP Heath enclosure: the Moet & Chandon lawn, a pop-up version of Hollywood bar E.P. & L.P. and the two-chef-hatted restaurant Ezard, all of which are accessible with purchased tickets over $325.
"We don't want to have pretentiousness, but we did want to be edgy," says Webster.
"We wanted everyone to know that we're breaking with convention, even though they should feel comfortable when they're here. That's the thing with E.P. & L.P. – when you're been there in LA, you're not thinking, 'I've got to be George Clooney to be here.' You think, 'I'm part of LA and I'm comfortable to be here.'"
The shock of the new
Webster's revamp of the races has seen innovative changes, some of which raised eyebrows – such as her makeover of the Fashions on the Field area, since last year reinvented as the David Jones Fashion Stable and the Westfield Style Stakes.
Now, instead of entering a regular fashions competition, entrants have their photos taken in a custom-made photography studio on track. Photos are judged by a panel, including carnival ambassador Nadia Bartel, with only finalists and winners appearing onstage.
The stable also hosts twice-daily David Jones runway shows, which – on Guineas Day – had a special appearance by Bonnie Anderson. (Caulfield Cup's mystery runway guest hasn't been officially revealed, but it's an unexpected choice.)
Success of the new fashion approach was immediate: two years ago, 165 people entered Fashions on the Field. Last year, 2000 people entered the Style Stakes, and 80,000 people shared social media about it. Guys certainly were included in the mix; four men won the "squad" category.
Keeping up with the Jones
The invite-only hot ticket is still the David Jones marquee, now known as the Caulfield Lounge partnered with David Jones enclosure.
Decorated with plush blue walls, and velvet couches in both navy and pink, the big drawcard is its famous guests, especially David Jones ambassador-models Jesinta Franklin and Jess Gomes. Both have been famous for their dance floor staying power, and Franklin points out the marquee's other perks on media preview day: a Dior pamper room and an emergency store of band-aids and ballet flats for those women whose heels have betrayed them before the day is over.
A first class experience
But it's the E.P. & L.P. bar that has brought the cool factor home. One of its co-owners, deejay-entrepreneur Grant Smillie, has flown into the races to hit the turntables, and to ensure that his famous Where Love Lives cocktail (a wicked margarita with a smoky, chilli kick) and chicken sliders are made to perfection.
MRC's Peta Webster likens the entire Heath enclosure experience to flying Business or First Class with Virgin, with entry to Moet & Chandon or E.P & L.P. being Business Class, and a meal at Ezard linking to First. Still, even though she's changed the vibe at Caulfield Cup Carnival for the better, she's still not entirely satisfied, and promises that all her changes will reach their peak by next year, her third.
"I've said I'm going nowhere until I've got a two-storey double marquee and a pool [at the track], and I'm done," she says. It's pretty clear she's only half joking.