Its trademark slogan sums it up. The Melbourne Cup really is “the race that stops a nation”. Australia’s premier horse racing event, this is one fixture that no one wants to miss. Held in Flemington on the first Tuesday in November, Melbourne Cup Day has been a public holiday in Victoria since 1877.
Melbourne Cup Day: The Race that Stops a Nation
Nothing gets in the way of Melbourne and its Cup. Neither World War managed to scupper the race, though from 1942 to 1944 the race was switched to a Saturday. Rain has led to its postponement on a couple of occasions, but never to its cancellation. The event is big business. Drawing an estimated 26,000 international and inter-state visitors and injecting something like $155 million into the local economy, Melbourne really couldn’t imagine life without it.
While the atmosphere in Melbourne during Cup Week is worth travelling halfway across the world for, Melbourne Cup Day is the day when everyone wants to join in. 100,000 people attend Flemington Racecourse which pales into insignificance against the estimated 650 million people worldwide who watch it on TV or via the internet. Melbourne Cup Day the highlight of Melbourne’s social calendar and race goers’ fashion hits and misses are scrutinised on social media.
Placing a Bet
Sweepstakes are commonplace – seemingly every workplace and bar has one. Here’s a tip for those of you planning to place a bet: don’t back the horse that runs from stall 18 as no horse from that right hand placement has won since barriers were introduced in 1924. It’s probably wise to steer clear of backing a grey, too; only six of the winners have been a grey horse. William Hill was where, in 2016, the best Melbourne Cup betting odds could have been found.
The Story of Archer, the Melbourne Cup’s First Winner
The Melbourne Cup has come a long way since the first race back in 1861. Watched by a crowd of just 4000 people, Archer took the top spot that historic Thursday, beating a field of sixteen other thoroughbreds. A remarkable horse, he won a second race the following day (and the Melbourne Cup again the following year) but the story of how he walked 800km to the course from Nowra in New South Wales is just that – a story. In fact, he came by steamship, as was the norm in those days.
Phar Lap: Australia’s Wonder Horse
The 1930 winner, Phar Lap, was nicknamed “Australia’s Wonder Horse” even though he actually foaled in New Zealand. To be fair on his adopted home, he was trained and ridden for much of his life in Oz. He dominated the racing scene for several years but tragically died in 1932. Scandalous gossip at the time claimed he’s been poisoned but later it was found that he’d succumbed to an acute and deadly form of bacterial gastroenteritis. An autopsy also found that his heart weighed a whopping 6.2kg, compared to a typical weight of just 3.2kg for a horse’s heart. It’s on display at the National Museum of Australia though some claim what you see there is a fake.
So, you see, the Melbourne Cup Day is more than just a horse race. It’s the stuff of legend.