The Wellington Cup Carnival is a three-day celebration held each January which centers around the Wellington Cup horse race, one of the premiere racing events for Kiwi jockeys, gamblers and racing enthusiasts. The race takes place in the rural community of Trentham which is reachable by a 40 minute train ride from the the capital city of Wellington. In addition to professional races the Wellington Cup carnival usually pairs race day with a wine festival featuring some of New Zealand’s top wineries. Throw in some live music performances and the fact that the carnival is held in the middle of summer, and this becomes one of the most festive events to take place within an hour of Wellington.
Given the event’s popularity (and the fact it’s been taking place for over 100 years), crowds numbering more than 20,000 flood the Trentham marquees and grandstand for the opportunity to experience the historic event. Much like the New Zealand Cup and Show Week in Christchurch, high-fashion is also a central theme of the event, and women sporting colorful fascinators and men in top hats and canes can be found interspersed throughout the crowd.
While all three days feature exciting horse races, one of the days is exclusively billed as a family day where attendants are encouraged to sit out on the lawn and enjoy a picnic or take part in the family-friendly activities going on throughout the carnival grounds. More than just a couple of festive days in January, the Wellington Cup Carnival celebrates the lengthy history of horse racing on the North Island of New Zealand, from the first jockey club which was formed in 1841, to the dozens of professional racehorses that still occupy the event grounds today.