The Melbourne Cup is the pinnacle of horse racing in Australia, with the race often referred to as “the race that stops a nation.” A two-mile handicap (3200m) that is held at Flemington Racecourse on the first Tuesday in November, the Melbourne Cup attracts the best local stayers from Australia and New Zealand, along with classy international stayers.
First held in 1861, the Melbourne Cup was won by the Etienne de Mestre-trained Archer who was a five-year-old entire. He would return the following year to win the race once again. John Cutts was the jockey for both victories. One year later, in 1863, the smallest Melbourne Cup field of all time would line up with just seven runners competing in the race won by Banker. The next smallest field size has been 14 which occurred in 1929 and 1931. Carbine won the 1890 edition of the great race in a field of 39 runners which is the race record. The race now holds a capacity of 24 runners.
Prize money continues to increase with the Melbourne Cup currently worth $7.3 million; this includes trophies worth $250,000, with the winner receiving $4 million and runner up $1 million in prize money.
The following races are ballot-exempt which means they grant the winner automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup – The Bart Cummings, Hotham Handicap, Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup.
Horses gain entry into the race first by nominating for the race and being allocated a weight by the handicappers. The better the form of the horse, the higher the weight that will be allocated to the horse; this does give them a greater success of successfully making the final field. A ballot order is created, and it is based upon whether a horse has passed a ballot clause, and the weight that has been allocated in relation to what weight would be given if it were a weight-for-age (WFA) race. There is a long list of conditions that allow a horse to pass the ballot clause, so we won’t cover that here.
The Melbourne Cup is the centrepiece of the Melbourne Cup Carnival which is held during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. The Melbourne Cup Carnival is a four-day carnival that consists of the following race days:
* Derby Day – held on the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup
* Melbourne Cup Day – held on the first Tuesday in November
* Oaks Day – held on the Thursday, two days after the Melbourne Cup
* Stakes Day – held on the Saturday after the Melbourne Cup
Champion mare Makybe Diva won the Melbourne Cup a record three times between 2003-05. David Hall trained her to victory in 2003 before Lee Freedman prepared the mare for her 2004 and 2005 successes. Jockey Glen Boss was in the saddle for all three wins. Dual winners of the Melbourne Cup are Archer (1861-62), Peter Pan (1932, 1934), Rain Lover (1968-69) and Think Big (1974-75).
Australia’s best-known racehorse Phar Lap captured the Melbourne Cup in 1930. Kingston Rule holds the race record when posting a time of 3:16.30 in 1990. Media Puzzle (2002) also broke 3:17 for the race, while the slowest time goes to Lantern (1864) and Archer (1861) with 3:52.
The late Bart Cummings, known as the Cups King, is the most successful trainer in the Melbourne Cup as he prepared 12 winners. Next best is Etienne de Mestre with five victories in the 1800s and Lee Freedman with another five.
When it comes to jockeys, Harry White and Bobby Lewis hold the record with four victories apiece. Michelle Payne is the only female hoop to win a Melbourne Cup, which occurred in 2015 when rank outsider Prince Of Penzance won.
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