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Melbourne Cup

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Melbourne Cup is the biggest event in the Australian racing calendar. Held at Flemington every year on the first Tuesday in November, the race attracts huge crowds which the Victoria Racing Club has now capped at 120,000 people in order to avoid overcrowding on the course. Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday, and quite right too.

Race History

The Melbourne cup was first run in 1861 and was won by Archer, who won it in 1862 as well. He also holds the distinction of being the slowest winner ever, in a time of 3.52.00.

Over the following few years the Melbourne Cup came to be regarded as the greatest race in the country, and many of the traditions started in the 1870’s. The first time it was held on a Tuesday was in 1875, and 1876 saw the first golden cup design. In the early years, two trainers battled for the most wins, Etienne de Mestre having five winners from 1861 to 1878. John Tait had four during the same period.

By 1895, when Mark Twain visited the race, it had become a central part of Australian culture.

Over the ensuing years, there have been many great horses who have won the race. Maybe the best known is Phar Lap who won it in 1930, but others include Think Big, Kingston Rule, Let’s Elope, and Rogan Josh. Of course, the list also includes Makybe Diva who won it three times, in 2003, 2004, and 2005. In addition, Bart Cummings also earned a special place in Melbourne Cup history, having trained no less than a dozen winners.

Two jockeys have won the race four times, Bobby Lewis from 1902 to 1927, and Harry White with four wins in the 1970’s. The fastest time recorded was Kingston Rule with 3.16.30 – a far cry from the 3.52.00 of Archer.

There have also been some winners at very long odds. The Pearl, Wotan, and Old Rowley all started at 100-1.

Melbourne Cup Details

The Melbourne Cup is run over 3,200 metres – two miles – and is the richest two mile handicap in the world. It is for three year olds and over, and the current prize money is $6,175,000. This is a long way from the reported £710 plus a gold watch won by Archer. The actual amount is the subject of some dispute: it may have been £170, or £930. There was no prize for second or third place.

The barrier draw for the 24 runners is held on the Saturday before the race, and barrier 18 is regarded as the kiss of death, as the race has never been won from this barrier. The majority of Melbourne Cup winners have come out of the first 12 barriers, with barrier 11 being regarded as the favourite.

The Melbourne Cup – also billed as “The race that stops a nation” is being held this year on Tuesday November 1st.

Lead up races

Lead up races that are regarded as good form guides are the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Stakes. Some of the Sydney races are also targeted by Melbourne Cup hopefuls such as the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes and the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes.

The Victoria Derby is also seen as a lead up race, despite the fact that it is run only three days before the Melbourne Cup. Many see it as a chance for the horses to loosen up before the big day.