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Ascot at its best for Perth Cup day
The West Australian

Shuffling into the most exclusive room at Perth's biggest New Year's Day party yesterday at Ascot, WA football legend Jack Sheedy was typically not in the mood to waste a moment.

"I've just been thinking about how many more of these I might see," the 87-year-old said with a glint in his eye that suggested there were a few more Perth Cups in him yet.

Sheedy joined other luminaries such as Premier Colin Barnett in Ascot racecourse's committee room, proclaimed by Perth Racing chairman Ted van Heemst as the "best seat in the house", as 16,000 other revellers went trackside to celebrate the beginning of a new year.

While many soaked up the sun, as well as several cans of sometimes warm pre-mixed spirits, committee room guests sipped chilled 2009 Seppelt Salinger Vintage Cuvee and nibbled on perfectly cooked lamb racks, prawn terrine and pork belly.

Around the course, there were 22 tonnes of ice being used to cool 7500 litres of free mineral water, 30,000 bottles of soft drink and other beverages. There was also 200kg of braised pork to cater for hungry punters.

PICTURE GALLERY: Perth Cup fashion
Oliver supreme on Black Tycoon

But as it has been many times in his extraordinary career, it was WA jockey Damien Oliver who was the main man on the menu, winning his home State's cup for the second time.

Oliver, just two months after winning his third Melbourne Cup, waved his magic wand with one of the best Perth Cup rides in history on Black Tycoon.

It gave trainer Justin Warwick, a former pacing champion who feared for his life just three years ago after a staph infection, his biggest moment in his new code.

Earlier in the day, veteran WA trainer Vern Brockman was close to tears after Oliver had ridden Kheleva to victory for him. Brockman had a strong trainer-jockey association with Oliver's late brother Jason.

Off the track, racegoers were far better behaved, for the most part, than some of the raucous scenes at past Perth Cups.

A case in point was watching some simply patting mounted police horses instead of being trampled by them.

One lark in the main-straight sun, lolling about amid a bevy of festive fashionistas, suggested the grey horses racing during the day had been borrowed from Perth's visiting Cavalia show.

A new Champagne Marquee gave more than 300 punters a taste of class, while those out to partake in less inhibiting surrounds took advantage of a Hawaiian beach party and band.

Mr van Heemst admitted Perth Racing faced major challenges in the current era to make the club's big day an attractive New Year's Day option. But he said recent event profiling by Melbourne-based research company IER had shown progress in the past two years.

The company will again survey racegoers who attended yesterday on how they rated the experience.

Mr van Heemst, who hopes to soon build crowds at the event back up to 25,000, said the inc-reased infrastructure to provide sun protection and improved food options around the track had been an important focus.

"You can see that the whole course and the ambience is a lot different to what it was two or three years ago," he said.

"It is still an iconic event and the branding of it is very important to us."

After the last race, DJ Ruby Rose rocked the crowd to the end of an impressive day.

Racegoers were far better behaved than at Perth Cups past."