The Melbourne Cup is a Group 1 flat horse race held on Tuesday in November. It’s known as “the race that stops a nation,” and for a good reason. The 3200-meter shootout at Flemington Racecourse is watched by one million TV viewers annually, plus a heap of those who come out to Victoria, Australia, to experience it live.
Who Organizes It?
The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) is the main body responsible for the Melbourne Cup, holding its race meeting at Flemington Racecourse annually on the first Tuesday in November. The event itself has been run since 1861 and was initially envisioned to bring tourism and attention to the area.
They are backed by the Australian Racing Board (ARB), which works with VRC to develop and promote Australia’s racing industry, including the Melbourne Cup racetrack.
What Is The History Of The Melbourne Cup?
The story goes that in 1838 two men returning from a British foxhunt were inspired to hold a similar event in Australia. The first Melbourne Cup was held last Tuesday of November 1842 and won by Mr. Archer, who would later become one of the nation’s most successful racehorse owners and breeders.
Melbourne Cups were then canceled during World War II to free up resources for the war effort. Since then, it’s been a massive part of Australian culture and is even recognized as a public holiday in either November or December.
How Did The Race Get Its Weird Name?
It’s a common misconception that the Melbourne Cup is named after the first Governor of Victoria, John Bourke. It was called for a British racehorse owner named Mssrs. Wills and Flaxman organized the event as part of an Australian Jockey Club fundraiser in 1861.
They chose to name the race after the first Governor of South Australia—Sir Charles Hotham, who was not in attendance at the race.
It should also be noted that the Melbourne Cup is seldom referred to by its full name anywhere other than official documentation. Most people call it the Melbourne Cup, often shortened to simply “the cup.”
Who Is Eligible To Run In The Melbourne Cup?
Any thoroughbred horse that meets the entry requirements can run in the race. There are three main stages to getting into the race: securing an entry spot, earning a starting spot, and running in the race.
The first step is securing an entry, which can be done once the horse has earned enough points to meet the requirements. A horse’s eligibility is based on placing in a Group 1 or Group 2 event, although there are other ways to qualify if you’re willing to pay for it.
Once in the Melbourne Cup, a horse has to compete in at least one Group 1 or 2 events before running.
The last hurdle is running in the race, tricky since only around 24 horses make the final lineup. There are 25 stars in each Melbourne Cup with up to six emergency players on standby in case of injuries or other emergencies.
Traditions for Melbourne Cup Day:
It’s customary to wear a hat (to keep your ears warm), and if you’re feeling festive, a red, white, and blue scarf or accessory.
Don’t forget to wear a smile on your face as well – after all, the Melbourne Cup is one of Australia’s most celebrated days on the calendar.
If you see people wearing green on cup day, chances are they’re from Ireland – so be sure to give them a friendly wave.
In recent years, the wearing of novelty hats has become a tradition on Melbourne Cup Day, with entrants from local races to the Melbourne Cup itself getting in on the act and creating their unique hats for staff and guests alike.
The hats often reflect this, with punters coming up with some rather funny – and at times, rather bizarre – designs.
However, the trend has faded more recently, and people are opting for a more casual look of jeans and neutral-colored jackets.
The Boylesports bookmaker chain is known to hold an annual marquee party on Melbourne Cup Day, and it’s said that some competitors will do anything they can think of to get inside and bet on the race.
There are plenty of other people who’ll be glued to their screens all day, placing bets online or watching it on TV if they can’t make it out to the race track itself.
There are usually celebrity appearances inside the course itself, and some racing pundits will wear bizarre costumes to tip a winner.
They might be looking foolish, but sometimes their predictions are right on the money.
The Melbourne Cup also allows Australians to showcase their national pride, with different states coming up with unique costumes for race-goers.
If you do attend the races, make sure you’re well prepared – bring an umbrella to protect yourself from rain showers or a hat for sun protection and a mobile phone to call a taxi when you’re ready to head home.
And don’t forget the most essential item on this list – your wallet!
A day at the races:
When it comes to spending money during Melbourne Cup Day, some people spend as much as $500 or $600 on a single bet – so having a wallet filled with cash has become a necessity for race day.
While you can purchase drinks and snacks at the course, it’s often quite pricey, and you could end up spending as much as $20 (or more) on a single drink such as an icy cold beer or coffee.
So make sure you bring a bucket of money with you and expect to spend $20 on a few drinks – just don’t let it spoil the fun!
If you want to save as much as possible, try buying your food beforehand and bringing it with you. Practically nobody will mind if you visit their race track with a carton of beer in hand – but take note of any local BYO laws.
The main rule to remember is that money isn’t supposed to be exchanged between punters and bookies or jockeys.
If you are caught doing this, you could find yourself in trouble with the law – so keep your wad of cash out of sight until after the race!
After all, what better way is there to celebrate the Melbourne Cup than by placing a few bets and enjoying a few drinks with friends?
Don’t forget your credit card or cash just in case you want to enjoy some of the course’s other features, such as the restaurants and betting shop terminals.
Also, if it does rain on cup day, you might want to bring an umbrella and keep a stash of wet weather gear in your car.
On top of this, you’ll need to make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the spring weather, and that means wearing something like jeans and a jacket or sweater.
It’s also important not to misplace valuable items such as your mobile phone because you may be in for a long (and cold) wait.
It might be the only time in the year where they behave in such an unruly way, but it is part of what makes Cup Day so much fun!
Breaking the rules on Melbourne Cup day:
For many, breaking the law is part of their Melbourne Cup day tradition, and it’s almost expected for people to misbehave.
This often comes in the form of carrying on like a pork chop or slipping some cash straight into a bookie’s hand as soon as they appear.
Some enjoy having drinks on the course, watching the race outside their private boxes, and smoking in the bathrooms.
And of course, some enjoy a few cheeky bets – but make sure they’re legal!
So what else does the general public do to celebrate Melbourne Cup Day?
Well, at some race tracks, you’ll see people enjoying their snacks and drinks – even bringing picnic baskets with them as they set up in grandstands and enclosures.
And then some wear outrageous costumes, earning themselves a few laughs and plenty of attention from passers-by.
It’s also common for people to participate in Melbourne Cup betting games with their friends – such as placing money on the actual winner or selecting all the horses that will lose.
But if you’re planning on taking part in any of these activities, make sure you take note of the local laws!
Most importantly, remember having fun and enjoying the day with friends and family. Enjoy your Melbourne Cup day experience!
How Much Money Is Up For Grabs?
The purse for the Melbourne Cup is $5.5 million, with $3.6 million of that going to the winner and another $1 million paid out to second place—a pretty good payday no matter how you slice it! The rest of the horses earn the standard 10 percent of their place’s winnings, which can be up to $600,000 for first place.
It’s also worth noting that their owners subsidize many horses beyond what they win in prize money. For example, the horse who placed second in 2012 was sent to stud after his big day out and earned an extra $2.8 million in a single season for his owner.
Does The Winning Horse Get To Keep All The Money?
The short answer is no, of course not! A large portion of the winnings goes to taxes owed on prize money plus expenses, and the horse’s trainer also gets a cut. In all, it’s estimated that 40 percent of the purse is distributed to those who took part in the race.
The winning owner will keep 50 percent of their horse’s prize money, and then 20 percent is divided between owners who owned a portion of the winning horse. The final 10 percent goes into a trust for retired thoroughbreds.
Finally, 7.5 percent of the winning purse goes directly to the jockey and 2.5 percent to the owner’s racing manager or trainer.
What Does It Cost To Advertise On The Melbourne Cup’s Enormous Banner?
As one of Australia’s biggest days for exposure, some companies are prepared to pay up to $3 million for a single banner on the cup. It can be challenging to find space in some years because so many brands make the same decision—in 2013, the cup’s advertising was a full 98 percent sold out.
The space that isn’t taken up with ads is usually used by race-related organizations like the Victoria Racing Club, which also uses banners for advertising horse races around Australia.
The Melbourne Cup event itself—including pre-race concerts and events, offers some of the best exposure in the entire racing world, and deals can cost up to $1 million or more.
This kind of exposure is well worth the high price tag for major companies: the Melbourne Cup consistently rates among Australia’s top five most-watched television programs. The event has such a reputation that there are even live viewing parties in other countries like Japan, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and many other parts of Europe.
What Is The Difference Between The Melbourne Cup And The Kentucky Derby?
These two races differ in a couple of ways: while both have a name that symbolically suggests a strong connection, they’re unrelated. The Melbourne Cup is the race that started each of these events, but they’ve long since branched in different directions.
The Kentucky Derby was first to run in 1875 and debuted a new kind of betting system called pari-mutuel, where all bets are made public, so everyone has an equal shot at winning.
The race now has a $2 million purse and is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
The most significant difference between the two events is the number of runners: there are typically 20 horses who start at the Kentucky Derby, while as many as 24 may take part in the Melbourne Cup.
What’s The Best Way To Celebrate A Melbourne Cup Win?
If you win the big prize in Australia—the 50 million Australian dollar cup—you might want to toast your victory with a nice glass of champagne… if you can afford it.
On average, beer is the preferred beverage for most Australian race-goers, and in recent years an estimated 3.5 million cans of beer has been sold per Melbourne Cup event day.
The record for most beers sold in one year was in 2007 with 6.3 million cans in total—equivalent to about 19,000 liters of beer, or ten 43-gallon drums.
At around 4.5 percent ABV, that’s roughly equivalent to 2,100 bottles of beer per minute over the three-hour duration of the event.
The amount of beer sold at the Melbourne cup has increased by 500 percent since 1980, but it’s uncertain if that’s due to an increase in popularity or simply because they started selling beer inside the racecourse.
Is The Race Still Legal?
In short, yes – but it’s not as simple as that. The race has no written constitution or charter to illustrate its legality—it’s more of a leap of faith for bookmakers who accept bets from anywhere in the world.
The only issue is making sure everything makes it past the prohibition on wagering on racing overseas, although there are still ways for them to do it. Usually, the overseas bets are collected by an agent or representative of a local bookmaker before the race starts.
There’s no law against accepting foreign bets by telephone, but bookmakers try to keep it quiet because they don’t want people finding out about it.
Bookmakers also use the Internet to allow remote betting on the Melbourne Cup, using a third-party service provider called bet365, which is based in Gibraltar.
As for legality within Australia since they’re considered private gaming clubs under Victorian law. Even though online gambling is illegal under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, the government has said that it will enforce this on Australian-based online casinos.
Bookmakers can conduct their business however they choose in Australia—and internet betting is still a popular choice for Aussies.
So while some states may try to stop you from placing bets on the cup result, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy at least one bet of $6.00 and a few beers to celebrate the day.