It was a fun family day out for one group of Western Bay of Plenty punters at Tauranga Christmas at the Races today. The popular annual social event at Tauranga Racecourse was already in full swing by the time the first race was run, with the sun shining down and the festive atmosphere growing by the minute.
The sparkling wine was flowing, Christmas music was playing over the speakers, and the grandstands, lawn, corporate gazebos and marquees were filling up quickly.
Standing by the fence eagerly awaiting the first race were Benna Simons, 7, Georgie Simons, 9, Justine Thompson, Rogier Simons and Betty Davis.
The Omanawa family had backed three runners in the race and as the horses came around the corner and headed towards the finish line, the two young girls were beaming with excitement.
They picked the horses themselves.
"I kind of just pick a horse and hope for the best," Georgie said.
Her sister Benna, meanwhile, always looks in the race booklet and picks her favourite name.
That technique has served her well in the past, mum Justine said.
"We came last year and we loved it," she said.
"The girls just loved winning. The girls ride at pony club, so they love horses."
Nana Betty said she was in Tauranga for the long weekend from Kerikeri.
"Just to see the grandkids and I was invited to join them for the lovely races, which I've never done before."
It was also the first Christmas at the Races for Nicola-Mary Braithwaite and Gordy Lockett, who were attending a corporate function.
Lockett said he was looking forward to having a dabble on the horses.
"Getting a winner, we want a winner," he said.
"That would be excellent, the day is young," Braithwaite added.
There was food to be eaten, drinks to be drunk, and plenty of live music and horse racing action to keep everybody entertained.