Under gloomy skies, the VRC‘s Melbourne Cup Carnival was officially launched at Flemington Racecourse today, heralding the return of the iconic Melbourne Cup trophy to racing’s headquarters after its epic tour around Australia and the world.

The Melbourne Cup returns to Flemington in the grasp of former Miss Universe Australia Rachel Finch.

The Melbourne Cup returns to Flemington in the grasp of former Miss Universe Australia Rachael Finch.

VIPs and media gathered for the late-morning outdoor event, and collectively hoped the rain would hold off for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the heavens opened just as host Mark Beretta from Channel 7’s Sunrise began proceedings, causing guests to scramble for the clear umbrellas provided, which subsequently obscured many a photo.

Mark Beretta begins hosting duties as the rain falls.

Mark Beretta begins hosting duties as the rain falls.

VRC Chairman Michael Burn introduced guests to the exciting new additions to Flemington’s Cup Carnival facilities, including the Johnnie Walker Whisky Bar, Crown Merrywell’s gourmet burger pop-up stall, My Kitchen Rules Laneway, Julius Marlow Shoe Shine Station and – perhaps most importantly – the ability to connect to free wifi within the course (it’s just like Christmas for bloggers!).

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle declared the Melbourne Cup Carnival open with a jovial speech, while a panel of industry experts, including UK trainer Luca Cumani, racing analyst Francesca Cumani, local trainers Mark Kavanagh and Mike Moroney, and jockeys Chad Schofield and Craig Williams, discussed their prospects of winning the coveted 2013 Melbourne Cup.

The racing panel, from left to right: Craig Williams, Mike Moroney, Chad Schofield, Mark Kavanagh, Luca Cumani and Francesca Cumani.

The racing panel, from left to right: Craig Williams, Mike Moroney, Chad Schofield, Mark Kavanagh, Luca Cumani and Francesca Cumani.

Gorgeous Myer Fashions on the Field Ambassador Rebecca Bramich and Emirates Stakes Day Fashions on the Field Ambassador Johnny Ruffo were on hand to discuss the fashion requirements of entering their respective competitions, with Rebecca stating she’d like to see competitors follow key trends when selecting their outfits, but to also “put their personality into it”.

Lisa with Myer Fashions on the Field Ambassador Rebecca Bramich.

Lisa with Myer Fashions on the Field Ambassador Rebecca Bramich.

The launch concluded with a surprise flyover by a helicopter trailing a massive banner that simply read #MelbCupCarnival, while artist Laura Douglas deftly finished the strokes on miniature signature horse paintings which were graciously given to guests as they departed the course.

Laura Douglas puts the finishing touches on her signature horse paintings.

Laura Douglas puts the finishing touches on her signature horse paintings.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival begins with Derby Day, this Saturday, November 2nd. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketek and prospective racegoers are strongly urged to purchase them soon as it looks like the first day of the Carnival is heading for a sell-out.

By Lisa Tan