Melbourne Cup punters put best bid forward (slideshow)

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Glammed up locals, champagne and loud cheering was in plentiful supply at Arrowtown’s Jack Reid Park this afternoon. 

The Rotary Club of Queenstown held their annual Melbourne Cup day fundraiser at the sports ground, with proceeds from the $50 ticket sales going towards an Arrowtown community facility. 

Items donated from Queenstown businesses including a guitar signed by Paul McCartney, autographed photos of star Lady Gaga, Fergburger for a year, a skydive, helicopter ride and NZSki season pass also went under the hammer in a charity auction. 

Local Rotary Club president Chris Campbell hopes to raise about $15,000 from the event for the facility, estimated to cost around $700,000. 

Arrowtown Rugby Club president Simon Spark says the building, which they hope to start constructing this time next year at the current rugby club rooms site, is for the whole community. 

“We want to build a community facility here – it’s essentially a sporting and community facility that the Arrowtown community can use.” 

The plans are for sport changing rooms, showers and a toilet block on the ground floor, with a function area, bar and kitchen above. 

Spark says the rugby club is stumping up $100,000 for the structure and has been driving the changes, but is handing the project over to a trust. 

“Now we’re setting up a trust – which is the Arrowtown Community Centre Trust – which will run it from here,” he says. 

Spark says the Melbourne Cup event is the perfect opportunity to let the community know what they want to do. 

“People know that there’s a cause out there and it’s unifying the community a wee bit.” 

Queenstowner and Rotary member David Carter planned to put his hand up in the charity auction and spend his winnings from the race – he put $100 on champion steed Americain, nabbing about $1000. 

“But I’ll put it all back on the auction,” Carter claims. 

“We’ve got to get behind these local fundraisers. Without them the community would be lost.” 

Carter says unfortunately the past two Melbourne Cup days he’s been in hospital and couldn’t partake in festivities. “It’s been a great comeback,” he says. 

Carter wasn’t the only punter pocketing prize money from the race. Travelsmart managing director Alan Ward bet $3 on the winning trifecta. 

Meanwhile it wasn’t all about the horses. 

Mandy Erskine, decked out in a glam red dress, shoes and hat, took home the title of best dressed woman. 

“It’s the first time I’ve ever gone to a Melbourne Cup event,” the Arrowtowner says. 

Erskine thinks it’s appropriate her Australian-bought attire won. 

“I bought the dress and shoes two years ago in Melbourne on a girl’s trip,” she says. 

Partying will continue until 10pm tonight.