The Australian Melbourne Cup, the world’s richest two mile handicap race and the biggest and most significant of Australia’s horse racing events is run by 3 year old and above horses (colts, fillies and geldings) on the turf surfaced Flemington racecourse every year at the first Tuesday of November. The race is held and organized by the Victoria Racing Club, an 1861 established State of Victoria horse racing governing body.
History of the Melbourne Cup
The first Melbourne Cup was held in 1861 and was run, unlike nowadays, over a distance greater than two miles, at about 3,218 meters. With the introduction of the metric system to Australia at around 1970, the Melbourne Cup race trip was reduced to 3,200 meters in the 1972 race and has been the Melbourne Cup official race distance. Following low attendance at the first Melbourne Cup, Victorian Racing Club’s first secretary Robert Bagot, decided to attract the crowd in an old fashioned way, saying that where ever the ladies go, men will follow. He supplied members of the club with two ladies tickets and managed to attract a crowd of 4,000 spectators. Though the first Melbourne Cup was a part of fair and was conducted unprofessionally as one horse was bolted minutes before the race and three horses out the seventeen runners fell during the race resulting in the death of two of them.
Melbourne Cup Today
The Melbourne Cup today is visited annually by a crowd exceeding 130,000 race spectators, host top of their class and grade horses from the US, UK, Ireland and Japan and bears a purse of $5 Australian dollars, $3 million of them as the winner’s prize, handed together with the golden Melbourne Cup Trophy, valued at $125,000. The Melbourne Cup also offers a $500,000 bonus for any horse winning the Irish St. Leger and the Melbourne Cup at the same year. The minimum handicap weight is 47 kg (7st 4lb) when there is no maximum weight but the top assigned weight mustn’t be below 57 kg (8st 9lb). Each horse is assigned with handicapping weight as done in every handicap race when the weight assigned for each horse running the Melbourne cup is declared at around September by the Victorian Racing Club. Horses are can be considered as contenders for the Melbourne Cup by qualifying certain conditions such as lifetime earnings, win or places at leading international races and top weight ever carried by the horses.
Melbourne Cup Social Event
The day of the Melbourne Cup is declared as a public holiday for every working class within the city of Melbourne and some parts in the State of Victoria. Thousands of horse racing fans attend the Flemington racecourse while millions clutch to the TV screen, hoping to get a glimpse of the exciting two minutes of “The race that stops a nation” as it referred to in Australia. Betting activity is also at peak during the months preceding the race. Commentators analyze the event and lay down forecasts for the race while bettors debate among themselves over the most valued ante post selections. Indeed a day of festivity.