Frocks, fillies and flutters, the Launceston Cup has been the town’s signature racing for over 150 years.
On Wednesday thousands will don their favourite fashions for the annual race, as they have been since 1865.
Launceston’s horse racing history stretches further back even than 1865, however.
The first race meeting in the colonial town was held on March 22, 1824 on what is now one of Launceston’s busiest roads, a straight stretch of Elphin Road.
Little is known of these early race meets, as no records were kept.
Although it is widely considered the first Launceston Cup ran in 1865, it was not named as such until the following year.
In 1865 horses ran in the then-named Champion Race, which is considered to be the first Launceston Cup all the same.
The event drew a cracking crowd of more than 6000, including some notable dignitaries of the day, with people coming from across Tasmania and even from Melbourne for the meet.
Today the cup draws upwards of 12,000 attendees, although last year only 9500 to 10,000 attended due to poor weather.
Recent events may have come under fire for drunken behaviour, but the tradition of imbibing beverages whilst watching the races has been long established.
“The appetites and thirsts of racegoers were well catered for by the authorities,” The Launceston Cup Story 1865-1964 author Frank Dexter describes in his book.
“Eleven liquor booths were established on the course.”
However, behaviour appeared to be orderly with the only incident being the theft of a coat.
The coat belonged to the licensee of the Turf Hotel liquor booth, W. H. Rawling, who “doffed his scarlet coat, hung it up inside the booth and then served drinks” after becoming over-heated during the rush between races.
“A thief sneaked into the booth and grabbed the coat,” Mr Dexter said.
“Mr Rawling saw him leaving, chased him, thrashed him and returned to the booth with his coat.”
The event not only featured the races, but also a champion rifle match, volunteers ball, cricket match and concert.
To the delight of the crowd, Tasmanian horse Panic beat Melbourne Cup winner, Banker, to take the line for the big race.
The Tasmanian Turf Club, housed at the racing ground at Mowbray and that hosts the Launceston Cup, was established in 1826, although it had a sporadic existence for the next 45 years.
It is considered to have been properly established in 1871, after which it has continuously conducted races.
The club was formed to formalise the race rules and avoid what Mr Dexter describes as the ensuing “rows and bickering and insults”.
The Mowbray racecourse was originally owned by H.D. Parr, who first intended to charge the club an exorbitant fee of £20 per race day.
A compromise must have been reached, however, as races went ahead at the track that year.
In 1876 the turf club formed a syndicate, called the Mowbray Racecourse Company, to purchase the premises and even laid the foundations for a grandstand.
But fate was to intervene, with diving public interest in racing at the time spelling disaster for the venture.
The venture was unprofitable and the race track was sold to a member of the Tasmanian Turf Club Committee, W. C. Grubb, who charged just a small amount for the club to use it.
Finally again in 1905 the club bought the premises for £7500.
In the early years of the Launceston Cup anyone owning more than one horse could “declare” for one of them, which mean their other horse need not try.
Not long after the fourth cup, a new rule was instituted, which read, “When any owner runs more than one horse in a race each horse shall run on its merits. No plea of declaration shall entitle any owner to prevent one of his horses winning in order that he may win with another.”
This followed a win by William Field’s horse Strop, where it was reported Field’s other horse, Bella, could have beaten him.
The previous year Field had almost double his prize from Strop taking the cup with his bet winnings.
In 1897 bookmakers were banned from the racecourse in favour of totalisers, machines registering bets and dividing the total amount bet between the winners.
Bookmakers made a return to the Launceston Cup in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression.
Despite the scarcity of money, racing survived through the depression, as did the tradition of betting.
In 1947 the Launceston Cup scooped a place in Australian history when a horse to compete in the race, Queen of the Fairies, became the first racehorse in Australia to travel by plane.
The exercise almost ended in disaster when an accident while loading Queen of the Fairies left her with cuts on the head and legs, however after a veterinary examination she left on the plane, albeit four hours late.
She did only manage eighth place in the cup, but she marked the beginning of an era where air transport for racehorses became commonplace.
Since those early years the fashion, trends and technology may have changed but the love of the races remains.
After all, fun and entertainment are timeless.
READ MORE: The Launceston Cup Story 1865-1964 by Frank Dexter