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The Melbourne Cup - Australia's Most Famous Horse Race

By Edited May 8, 2014 0 1

The Melbourne Cup is a 3200 metre (2 mile) horse race run on the first Tuesday in November each year at Flemington racecourse. It was first run in 1861.

The Melbourne Cup is often referred to as "the race that stops a nation" because almost every Australian will take the time to watch the race on TV or listen to the race call. Around the country tens of thousands of people will attend a race meeting as practically every race track will hold a meeting that Tuesday and have big screens where people can watch the TV coverage of the race from Flemington in Melbourne.

Melbourne Cup Day is Famous in Australia

Many office workers will arrange for someone to bring a TV into the workplace and even people who wouldn't normally have a bet will have a once a year punt, even if it is just 50 cents in the workplace sweepstakes. The Melbourne Cup is a quintessential part of Australia's culture and is celebrated with great enthusiasm across the nation each year.

Flemington Racecourse, the Melbourne Cup Venue

Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne is the premier racetrack in the state of Victoria and is operated by the Victoria Racing Club (VRC). The track has a circumference of 2312 metres and horses run in an anticlockwise direction. The Melbourne Cup is 3200 metres which mean horses pass the winning post twice.

Each Australian Spring the VRC holds a 4 day Melbourne Cup Carnival over 4 days with Derby day on the first Saturday (late October or early November), Melbourne Cup Day on the first Tuesday in November, Oaks Day on the Thursday and Emirates Stakes Day on the following Saturday. Flemington Racecourse is famous for its thousands of roses and a team of gardeners work tirelessly to ensure they are in full bloom and at their best for the carnival.

What Horses Can Run in the Melbourne Cup?

The race is a quality handicap for horses that are three-years-old or more. Although the race is run in early November entries usually close in August which means trainers and owners have to plan well in advance. The field limit is 24 horses so there is hot competition to get a run. Qualifying conditions are stringent and complicated with winners of certain races being exempt from any ballot and horses required to have won prizemoney in distance races to be considered for a start..

Stallions, colts, geldings, fillies and mares can all nominate. Although New Zealand horses have run in the Cup for most of its history, it has been targeted by northern hemisphere horses since 1993 when Dermot Weld from Ireland fetched a horse called Vintage Crop to compete and win. Since then there have been many international raiders attracted by the huge prizemoney ($6 million plus trophies in 2010) and the race has become a great contest between horses from different nations.

Melbourne Cup Legends

Almost every Australian can reel off the names of at least some past Melbourne Cup winners as many become part of folklore. Phar Lap was a celebrated horse who won in 1930 when the country has deep in depression and he was known as the people's horse and won the Cup in 1930. Archer won the first two Cups in 1861 and 1862 and legend says he was walked the 500 miles from his home town in Nowra to compete in 1861.

The great Mayke Diva won three consecutive Melbourne Cups in 2003, 2004 and 2005 in a feat which may never be repeated, and trainer Bart Cummings has trained the winners of 12 Melbourne Cups beginning in 1965. The names of past winners like Carbine, Light Fingers, Briseis, Peter Pan, Rivette, Hi Jinx, Think Big and Kiwi are spoken with reverence, such is the mystique of the Melbourne Cup.

Fashions in the Field

The Melbourne Cup is much more than just a horse race. It is a public holiday throughout Melbourne and through most of the state of Victoria. The whole country takes on a party atmosphere and at Flemington people dress in everything imaginable from the most expensive designer labels to ridiculous costumes.

Hats and fascinators abound and the official flower for Melbourne Cup day is the Yellow Rose. Each of the majors racedays at Flemington have a flower, with the cornflower for derby day, pink rose for Oaks Day and red rose for Stakes Day.

Fashions on the field competitions are held for men, women and couples with prizes worth thousands of dollars often including holidays to exotic locations as well as cash. Competition is almost as fierce for the fashion contests as it is on the racetrack!

Attendance in recent years at Flemington on Cup Day is normally over 100,000 and racegoers are now required to pre-purchase tickets to help with crowd control. If you are in Australia it is said that everyone should experience the atmosphere of the Melbourne Cup at least once in their lifetime. If you are planning a trip to Australia, aim to visit Melbourne in the spring.

Recent Melbourne Cup Winners and Placegetters

Year Winner Second Third
2010 Americain Maluckyday So You Think
2009 Shocking Crime Scene Mourilyan
2008 Viewed Bauer C'est La Guerre
2007 Efficient Purple Moon Mahler
2006 Delta Blues Pop Rock Maybe Better
2005 Makybe Diva On A Jeune Xcellent
2004 Makybe Diva Vinnie Roe Zazzman
2003 Makybe Diva She's Archie Jardine's Lookout
2002 Media Puzzle Mr Prudent Beekeeper
2001 Ethereal Give The Slip Persian Punch
2000 Brew Yippyio Second Coming
1999 Rogan Josh Central Park Lahar



Feb 4, 2011 10:07am
Thanks for the great history lesson. The Melbourne Cup is still a new thing for me, even though I won the staff sweep last year. I wonder if Queensland will ever get the day off like the Victorians

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