They seemed on their best behaviour. Maybe they didn't want to emulate Melbourne's global shame after last week's drunken race-going carnage.
Or more to the point, as one seasoned exponent suggested, it was a subtle, official tactic that kept the Cup Day crowd in check?
"The bars have been halved, the queues are mental, and the beer's muck in a plastic cup."
Security and police had indeed been beefed up this year. Whatever it was, the 23,000-plus crowd was on good form. No arrests by 5pm.
The sun was shining, a breeze kept the edge off, and flowery dresses billowed.
The intent was there. "We're here to buy alcohol and sneak some peaks," one breezy punter announced as he entered late morning.
Free sunscreen slopped into passing palms.
Other hands were busy double-clutching bourbon and colas and whitebait sandwiches.
Foot-long hotdogs on a stick were a hot topic. Cheeky body-art turned heads. And the best-dressed woman and man competitions attracted large fields.
Months of planning and discussion, custom-fitted tailoring, and just a few fizzy flutes and they look like victims of an op-shop explosion.
One seasoned high-heeled totterer arrived with jandals in her handbag. For later.
Standards soon slip. At 1.05pm, the first witnessed victim of drink was frog-marched out by security.
By 2pm, the bars were selling two drinks per person or one RTD.
Water handed out by the thousands with bottles labelled: 'Yeah, nah ... and ease up on the drink'.
Shirts now untucked, collars skew-whiff. Mullets still flowing. Dodgy early Movember efforts. Random roars and squeals.
"Red dress, seven o'clock," nudge nudge.
"Oi! Harry pays for Tinder Plus!"
Another snippet caught in the wind: "He doesn't realise it, but he's punching above his weight ..."
Bleeding tattooed hands conning cops they're okay ...
Guffaws as an official on the big screen declares: "That's what today is all about - getting young people interested in harness racing."
Scott Moodie, a 38-year-old operations manager, summed things up.
"This is it - the sunshine, the happiness," he said.
"The city works hard all year and it's the one day that it all stops, we all come together, and have a great time."
Waratahs wedged into the $70-entry Lindauer Lawn.
"We talked to some farmers for 15 minutes about those waratahs," one punter said.
"I said to them, 'Do you know why they use those waratahs? To give you farmers something to talk about'."
The bar lines backed up.
The bored punters, turn to strangers for chit-chat.
"Are you married?"
"I knew it! I'm a sociologist ..."
Red-hot favourite Lazarus romped to victory in the big dance - the 2016 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup.
Most of the crowd even watched it.
But a lot had already left. They'd headed for the bars of town and the shortened queues, glass vessels and craft beers.
There were two races still left on the card.
And the bands played on ... mainly Wagon Wheel. Rock me mama.