Those glamming themselves up and heading to the Boxing Day races at Ellerslie today are advised to bring their appetite as well as a thirst.

More than 20,000 people are expected to flock to Ellerslie Racecourse, with organisers reporting strong ticket sales and hoping the rain will largely stay away.

One of the country's premier racing events, the New Zealand Herald Boxing Day Races are also as well known as a day of high fashion (and people-watching), entertainment and socialising.

Punters are expected to quaff 15,000 glasses of bubbly, and devour about 200kg of prawns, 200 dozen oysters and 50 whole salmon.


Fashionistas will be keenly contesting for the supreme award in the Viva Fashions in the Field event, which has grown in popularity each year.

About 120 contestants are expected to enter for a crack at a prize pool in excess of $30,000.

Many contestants spend thousands of dollars on their suits, dresses and headwear for the event, with designers kept busy with custom orders in the run-up.

However, those keen for a more laid-back experience can take their shorts and jandals to the Beach, Beats and BBQ party, which sees an artificial beach set up in the infield.

Auckland Racing Club chief executive Cameron George said the social aspect of the day was a key reason people kept coming back, year after year.

"It's a day that we have something for everybody, there's a lot of kids' entertainment and activities, and a good relaxing feel in the infield.

"We have our Fashion Village for the people that love fashion..

"People get dressed up, and others come in a relaxed mode after Christmas."

But the real highlight will be the racing, and gates open at 10am for the first of 10 races at 12.55pm. Mr George said the centrepiece would be the $200,000 Zabeel Classic.

"That's a very, very strong field in terms of quality.

"The likes of Survived which is favourite - if people want to see the best horses in New Zealand race, Ellerslie will certainly show them that."

Other Boxing Day events

• Pirongia Races. Alexandra Racing Club, Pirongia. First race at 11.30am.

• Katchafire and Kora Summer Tour. Waihi Beach Hotel, Waihi, 7pm.

• Boxing Day on The Peak concert. Te Mata Peak, Havelock North. 3pm to

• Wellington Salon Champs and Demolition Derby. Wellington Speedway, Upper Hutt. 7pm.