Horses, Hawaiians and holiday races

By Peata Melbourne

The Boxing Day Races showcased an array of spectacular racing, and heart-stopping action this year including Miss Hawai'i 1st runner-up who was teaching race goers how to hula.

Even when the main attraction of the day are the high-spirited horses, this year's Boxing Day Races brought some Polynesian flair to the field.

Chelsea Alohilani Clement, Miss Hawai'i 1st Runner Up, her partner Joshua Keli’ikuewa Magarro and singer Joey Akana were flown in from Hawai'i especially for the event.

"We want the families to come up and learn the hula from us, and we want to teach you some of our songs and some of our dance moves," says Clement. 

It's all part of the festivities and the world-class racing carnival that runs for 3 days, attracting around 25,000 kiwis for fun at Ellerslie Race Course.

Akana, the guitarist and singer for the trio says "We're playing a couple of traditional and hapa hauli songs, hapa hauli is they're part Hawaiian and part English."

Only the very young had the courage to get up alongside Clement and Magarro, the parents admitted they were still too sober to be trying their skills at some Hawaiian moves.

But it wasn't just the Kiwi's who were getting their thrills learning the hula, the Hawaiians had never been to a horse race event and the experience with horses was a first.

"I might try and throw some bets down, I don't know how to pick horses this is my first time to a horse race we don't have horse races in Hawai'i so it's going to be an interesting experience coz it's not something we normally do," says Magarro.

The Boxing Day Races have been running for 150 years and is a must for many on the Auckland social summer calendar. The racehorses were in full race preparation mode all morning, edging to get on the race course. Spectators flocking to get a close-up glimpse of the four-legged athletes before their jockeys mounted and headed for the course.

Thousands will spend the next few days at Ellerslie relaxing, flaunting their fashion flare, trying their luck with the bets and soaking up the summer atmosphere with a taste of Hawaiian hula.