Silver Fern star Maria Tutaia will swap her trainers for high heels when she goes track-side today as the ambassador for Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup Day.

And the self-described "true blue Aucklander" couldn't be prouder to be the face of the city's iconic race day.

"It's a pretty special occasion for Auckland and New Zealand," Tutaia told the Weekend Herald.

"I'm always going to pump up my city and whatever events are happening in it. What's great about [Auckland] is that we're always wanting to make sure everyone's looked after, embracing what we have."

Advertisement

Tutaia has been Cup Day's ambassador for four years and it's the people - the volunteers, the jockeys and the attendees - that make the day memorable, she said.

"You can get that vibe and that feel from everyone when you're walking past, big smiles on their faces, and you know they're wanting to make this event as great as possible for Auckland but also for wider New Zealand as well.

"The jockeys are absolutely incredible. I'm an athlete and so are they. I know the amount of dedication and time and effort and sacrifices that they have to make to be at their peak performance. I love seeing the end result."

As the ambassador she'll spend the day "spreading the love", mingling with the punters and handing out the awards and cups.

"I don't shy away from glitz and glamour so I love seeing what all the ladies wear - why they've chosen certain colours or certain outfits, the inspiration behind it," she said.

The netballer herself will be wearing a gown from one Auckland designer, Adrienne Winkelmann, and a headpiece from another - Zlato Designs Millinery.

"It's something that everyone would expect me to wear, but probably not for Cup race day," Tutaia said of her race day outfit.

But Tutaia's not sure yet whether she'll get American performers and fashion critics the Bumbys to assess her look.

Under the pseudonyms Jill and Gill Bumby the pair promise to give people a "fair and honest" but also "warm and funny" appraisal of their appearance.

They've travelled around the world, but Cup Day will be the Bumbys' New Zealand debut.

"I'd love to meet them, that would be awesome. We'll see," Tutaia said.

However, the 30-year-old does have a specific strategy in mind when it comes to betting.

"I go by the coolest names or the colours. I don't really know who's looking hot, who's not. I just purely go by the most styley names. It's worked for me so far so I'll definitely be doing that on Saturday.

"Last year I bet $5 each way on a horse only because I liked the colour of the horse, my favourite colour's purple, and I won $60."

While Tutaia will be scouting on-track colours at Ellerslie today, jockey Leith Innes will be nervously looking at the skies.

Innes will ride one of the race favourites Chenille in the Auckland Cup, with wet weather forecast for race day.

"I'll be looking to the heavens and praying the rain holds off as much as possible. Chenille is a beautiful horse but she's no fan of the rain," he said.

"I've raced the cup a few times but I'm yet to win it. Today's race is probably my best opportunity to do something special in front of the magnificent crowds at Ellerslie."

Day at the races
Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup Day
•Gates open at 10.30am
•First race at Ellerslie to run at 12.20pm
•Auckland Cup to run at 5.28pm
•Auckland Cup Week has been in existence for more than 150 years
•The current Auckland Cup was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1889 and gifted to Auckland Racing Club in the 1930s
•15,000 people are expected on course at Ellerslie for meetings to celebrate Auckland Cup week
•The Mumm Racing Village will host more than 900 people
•Musical entertainment on track will include Peter Urlich, Ladi6, Dan Aux and Parks