Crowd at Ellerslie yesterday was up by about 30 per cent from last year, helped by the near-perfect weather.

At just 6 months, baby Kaitlyn McGregor has been inducted into a family racing tradition that goes back more than four decades.

Near-perfect weather brought a crowd estimated at 8000 to the New Zealand Herald Christmas Carnival New Year's Day races at Ellerslie yesterday, and mother Caroline, 42, felt it was a "perfect time" to introduce Kaitlyn to the way her family welcomes the first day of the year.

"Coming from a family of trainers, breeders and jockeys, racing's in the blood and for Kaitlyn, this is how she's going to be celebrating the New Years to come," said Miss McGregor, who was also first introduced to the races by her parents when she was about 6 months old.

Miss McGregor collected her first winnings for the year after betting on Duelista, which was ridden by her jockey cousin Rory Hutchings, who came first in the opening race. "It's going to be a lucky year," she said.


The $200,000 feature race, the Sistema Railway Stakes, was won by Fleur de Lune - a first group one win for the mare and trainer Lee Somervell, upsetting the pre-race favourite, glamour horse Burgundy.

Mr Somervell was lost for words after the win, saying he was "over the moon" and "could not have asked for a better New Year's Day present".

Auckland Racing Club chief executive Cameron George said it was a phenomenal day of racing.

"The weather turned it on for Auckland, delivering a crowd of around 8000 and we're delighted with this number," he said.

A club spokeswoman said the crowd at Ellerslie yesterday was up by about 30 per cent from last year and attributed it to the sunshine and "near-perfect weather".

She said Boxing Day was traditionally the "big day" for racing, but numbers attending the New Year's event were "getting right up there".

However, unlike Boxing Day, there was no fashion component on and off the racetracks, but that was intentional in order to make yesterday a family event, the spokeswoman said.

Instead, there was free family entertainment, a kids' zone, popsicle planet, giant games and a swingball park.

The meeting began with a minute's silence to mark the death of jockey Ashlee Mundy after a crash on the track in race seven at Kurow, in North Canterbury, at the weekend.