Today is Melbourne Cup Day here in my home city. At 3.00 pm, on the first Tuesday in November, Australians everywhere stop for one of the world's most famous horse races - the Melbourne Cup. If you cannot be in Flemington Racecourse to watch the Cup live, you can listen to the race call on radio, or watch the race on TV. Even those who don't usually bet, try their luck with a small bet or entry into a “sweep” (a lottery in which each ticket-holder is matched with a randomly drawn horse).
ince 1877, Melbourne Cup Day has been a public holiday for Melbourne, and crowds have flocked to Flemington. By 11.00 am the grandstand is packed to its 7,000 capacity, and by 3.00 pm, many tens of thousands of people usually gather around the racecourse. The party atmosphere often means that champagne and canapés, huge hats and racetrack fashions overshadow the business of horse racing. American writer Mark Twain said of a visit to the Melbourne Cup in 1895: “Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.”
The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861 at Flemington Racecourse and was won by Archer, a horse from Nowra, New South Wales, beating the local favourite, Mormon. The prize was a gold watch and £170. Dismissed by the bookies, Archer took a lot of money away from Melbourne, refuelling interstate rivalry and adding to the excitement of the Cup. Australia's most famous racehorse, Phar Lap, combined great stamina and speed. He was foaled in New Zealand in 1926 by Night Raid out of Entreaty and he grew to 17 hands. Over his career he won more than £65,000 in prize money and won 37 of his 51 starts. From September 1929 he was the favourite in all but one of his races. Phar Lap became the darling of Australian race crowds during the Great Depression of the 1930s - winning all four days of the 1930 Flemington Spring Carnival including the Melbourne Cup carrying 62.5 kg. Phar Lap is the only horse to have started favourite in three successive Melbourne Cups. He came third in 1929, won the race in 1930 and ran eighth in 1931.
The Melbourne Cup is one of the world's most challenging horse races and one of the richest (the total prizemoney, including trophies, for the 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup will increase to $7.3 million, up from $6.25 million in 2017. The winner will receive $4 million - plus $250,000 in trophies, second place $1 million, and third place $500,000), and is the highlight of the Spring Racing Carnival. The race is run over 3,200 metres and is a handicapped race. This means that the better the horse is, the more weight it has to carry in the race. The distance and the handicap ensure that the Melbourne Cup is a horse race in which the occasional punter has as good a chance of picking the winner as those who follow the form. It is a day when all Australians are considered to have an equal chance on the turf as well as on the lawn.
This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Travel Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.