Kiwi songstress Kimbra was back on home soil yesterday, confirming her blossoming international profile with a performance at Ellerslie Racecourse.

Several hundred people donned fascinators and hats and dodged the intermittent rain and winds of up to 100km an hour at the first day of Auckland Cup Week Carnival. Extra marquees were put up to keep spectators dry and warm.

Silent Achiever won the New Zealand Derby race, netting its owner a handy $450,000. Marion Farrell took home the Fashion in the Field title and a brand new Nissan Juke.

Ellerslie chief executive Chris Weaver said his aim was to put racing back on the social calendar and it was disappointing that Derby Day had been rained out two years in a row. Just 25 per cent of tickets are pre-purchased, so the weather has a huge impact on numbers.


"When the weather warning came through, it's the worst thing you can hear," he said.

Race days in the 20th century regularly attracted numbers more than 40,000, Weaver said. Live entertainment, fashion competitions and the Birdcage Bash party after the last race were introduced to lure crowds back.

This year, Ellerslie had upped the stakes by flying in 21-year-old Kimbra, who has an international number one hit Somebody That I Used to Know and a top Australian singing award.

Rain or shine, the action continues on Wednesday with the $1 million Auckland Cup. British singer and A-lister Seal is rumoured to be flying in to enjoy the racing from the exclusive Gucci marquee.

Hobbit star Orlando Bloom and his wife Miranda Kerr were also rumoured to be on the same guest list. The Cup Week is scheduled to wrap up with next Saturday's Diamond Day event.