Boozed-up racegoers traded punches, attempted to destroy outdoor furniture and left Flemington in a foul state following the 2017 edition of the Melbourne Cup.
Despite a typically topsy-turvy afternoon of Melbourne weather, the 90,536-strong crowd kept their spirits high on a day highlighted by Rekindling’s ultimately successful attempt to see off Johannes Vermeer in the $6.2 million main race.
But things occasionally turned nasty as the day rolled on, with a range of disputes occurring on the lawn in front of Flemington’s members grandstand while hordes of seagulls flocked to a sea of discarded bottles, cans and betting slips.
Victoria Police said 17 arrests were made for assault, offensive behaviour, being drunk in a public place, and other offences. A further 33 punters were evicted by on-course security.
“It’s really full-on,” a cleaner, who wished to remain anonymous, told The New Daily.
“The main thing is they [punters] are happy … sometimes they pick up their rubbish.”
A security guard named Mark admitted to TND that the Melbourne Cup was the “most hectic day of the year” for he and his colleagues.
“I deal with drunk people,” he said. “Outsiders can be a bit rude – but if they’re from Melbourne it’s OK.”
A day of heavy drinking sent some to sleep, while several others got reckless or angry in the aftermath of the Cup.
Michael Thorn, CEO of the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education, said the crowd’s behaviour was “very disappointing”.
“It was meant to be about a horse race, not a drinking race,” he told The New Daily.
“Unfortunately we know that these big events see heavy drinking, which all too frequently leads to violence and injury … it’s an entirely predictable outcome.
“And this is bound to reoccur unless action is taken.”
Thorn said existing responsible service of alcohol rules “simply fail for many reasons”, including the “not feasible strategy of service staff managing the drinking of patrons”.
He suggested a drinking ban until later in the day or the sale of mid-strength alcohol products – and not their full-strength counterparts – as possible solutions.
Protests mar Melbourne Cup build-up
Racegoers also suffered major delays in getting to Flemington after protesters blocked train tracks to denounce Australia’s treatment of refugees on Manus Island.
Protesters also scaled a crane near the racecourse to display a protest banner which read ‘SOS: Evacuate Manus Now’.
Two women were arrested but later released pending further enquiries, Victoria Police said.
A graffiti-laden car, left in the way of trains near Flemington Station, saw racing fans forced to walk along the tracks to get to the races.
Not the first time
The behaviour of some punters at the 2017 Melbourne Cup was similar to what was seen 12 months ago.
The unruly scenes at Flemington last year attracted worldwide headlines, with the likes of the BBC, The Sun, International Business Times and US sports website Deadspin all sticking the boot in.
“It’s not until you see these photos of the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most drunken and depraved horse racing event, that you can really understand just how out of hand the whites can get,” a Deadspin review of the event said.
International Business Times said: “The Melbourne Cup is known as ‘the race that stops the nation’.
“Perhaps this is because revellers are so hungover the next day that they can’t move.
“Stewards had to step in to break up brawls and several punters were carried away in ambulances.”