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Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race. Billed as The race that stops a nation, it is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3,200 metres. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world. The event is held on the first Tuesday in November by the Victoria Racing Club, on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. This day was traditionally only a public holiday within metropolitan Melbourne, but is now also observed as a holiday in the ACT.

The race was originally held over two miles (about 3,218 metres) but following preparation for Australia's adoption of the metric system in the 1970s, the current race distance of 3,200 metres was established in 1972. This reduced the distance by 61ft 6in, and Rain Lover's 1968 race record of 3min.19.1sec was accordingly adjusted to 3min.17.9sec. The present record holder is the 1990 winner Kingston Rule with a time of 3min 16.3sec.

The 2007 winner was Efficient, ridden by Michael Rodd, trained by Graeme Rogerson and owned by Lloyd Williams. Efficient became the first horse since Phar Lap to win the Victoria Derby, then the Melbourne Cup the following year.

History

Seventeen horses contested the first Melbourne Cup in 1861, racing for £170 cash and a gold watch. It has been said that the winner, Archer, walked 800km to the course from Nowra, New South Wales, but it is possible he travelled by ship. A crowd of 4,000 watched the race, although it has been suggested this was less than expected because of news reaching Melbourne of the death of explorers Burke and Wills.

Archer won again the following year, but because owner Etienne de Mestre's nomination form arrived late the next year, Archer was unable to contest a third cup. Many sympathetic owners boycotted the race which started with only seven horses, the smallest number in the history of the Cup. Archer's jockey was an Aboriginal named J. Cutts.

On 7 November 1876 the running of the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November commenced with the three-year-old filly, Briseis, creating a record that is never likely to be equalled, winning the VRC Derby, the Melbourne Cup and the VRC Oaks in the space of six days. She was ridden in the Cup by thirteen year old Peter St Albans

The first Tuesday in November, Melbourne Cup Day, was officially gazetted a full public holiday in 1877.

Phar Lap, the most famous horse in the world of his day, won the 1930 Melbourne Cup. He also competed in 1929 and 1931, but came 3rd and 8th respectively.

The first Aboriginal jockey to win the Melbourne Cup was not Frank Reys who rode Gala Supreme to victory in 1973, it was J. Cutts who won the first and second Melbourne Cups riding Archer in 1861 and 1862. The second Aboriginal jockey to win was Peter St. Albans riding Briseis in 1876.

Recent years

The race has undergone several alterations over the past 10 years, the most visible being the arrival of many foreign-trained horses to contest the race in the last decade (notwithstanding the many winners from New Zealand including the famous Phar Lap). Most have failed to cope with the conditions; the three successful "foreign raids" include two by Irish trainer Dermot K. Weld successful in 1993 and 2002, and one in 2006 by Katsumi Yoshida of Japan's renowned Yoshida racing and breeding family. The attraction for foreigners to compete was, primarily, the low-profile change to the new "quality handicap" weighting system.

The 1910 Melbourne Cup was won by Comedy King, the first foreign bred horse to do so. Subsequent foreign bred horses to win Cup were Backwood 1924; Belldale Ball 1980; At Talaq 1986; Kingston Rule 1990; Vintage Crop 1993; Jeune 1994; Media Puzzle 2002; Makybe Diva 2003, 2004, 2005

The 1938 Melbourne Cup was won by trainer Mrs. Allan McDonald who conditioned Catalogue. However, at the time women were not allowed to compete and as such her husband's name was officially recorded as the winning trainer. The 2001 edition was won by New Zealand mare Ethereal, trained by Sheila Laxon, the first woman to formally train a Melbourne Cup winner. She also won the Caulfield Cup, a 2,400 metre race also held in Melbourne, and therefore has won the "Cups Double".

In 2004 Makybe Diva became the first mare to win two cups, and also the first horse to win with different trainers, after David Hall moved to Hong Kong and transferred her to the Lee Freedman stables.

The 2005 Melbourne Cup was held before a crowd of 106,479. Makybe Diva made history by becoming the only horse to win the race three times. Trainer Lee Freedman said after the race, "Go and find the youngest child on the course, because that's the only person here who will have a chance of seeing this happen again in their lifetime."

The 2006 Melbourne Cup was won by the Japanese horse, Delta Blues. Delta Blues won by a nose over a second Japanese horse, Pop Rock. The major sponsor for the 2006 Melbourne Cup was Emirates Airline.

Due to the 2007 Australian Equine influenza outbreak, believed to have been started by a horse brought into Australia from Japan, neither Delta Blues nor Pop Rock participated in the 2007 Melbourne Cup. Both horses are stabled in Japan. Corowa, NSW trained " Leica Falcon " was also not be permitted to race in Victoria, despite being close to the Victorian border . Leica Falcon was ordained as the new staying star of Australian racing in 2005 when he ran fourth in both the Caulfield Cup and in Makybe Diva's famous third Melbourne Cup victory. But serious leg injuries saw the horse not race for another 20 months.

Results and records

Most wins:

Most wins by an owner:

Most wins by a jockey:

Most wins by a trainer:

Trophy

The trophy currently awarded (since 1919) is a three-handled gold loving cup worth $80,000 at 2007 prices. The winning trainer and jockey also receive a miniature replica of the cup (this practice commenced in 1973) and the strapper is awarded the Tommy Woodcock Trophy, named after the strapper of the incomparable Phar Lap. The trophy changed in appearance greatly over the years since the first trophy was awarded in 1861, with several of them featuring model horses. The first trophy was a gold watch, until a silver bowl manufactured in England, with two ornate handles with a horse and rider on top, was introduced in 1865. The following year an ornate silver cup depicting Alexander taming the horse was presented. There was then a period where a trophy wasn’t presented, until 1876 when Edward Fischer an immigrant from Austria produced the first Australian-made and gold trophy. It had two handles and an engraving of a horse race set at Flemington.

A silver plated base sporting three silver horses was added in 1888, but in 1891 the prize changed to being a 15 inch high, 24 inch long trophy showing a Victory figure offering an olive wreath to a jockey. From 1899 the trophy was in the form of silver galloping horse embossed on a 3 foot long plaque, although it was said to look like a greyhound by some people.

In the Second World war years (1942, 43 and 44 ) the winning owner received war Bonds valued at 200 pounds. A new trophy is struck each year and becomes the property of the winning owner. In the event of a dead heat a second cup is on hand. A few years ago an annual tour was initiated to foster further interest in the event. A replica of the cup is taken to locations locally and Internationally which have some connection to the Cup. Areas to which the Cup has been taken include the Middle East, New Zealand, United Kingdom and USA.

The last Melbourne Cup trophy manufactured in England was made for the 1914 event. It was a chalice centred on a long base which had a horse at each end. A large rose bowl trophy was presented 1915-1918 and the current loving cup design was introduced in 1919.

The present trophy is made of 34 pieces of gold metal hand beaten over 200 hours. Close inspection of the inside of the Cup will reveal small hammer imprints. As of May 07, 2008, the trophy values were increased by 50%. The Cup now contains 1.65kg of 18-carat gold valuing the cup at $125,000 dollars.

Prize money

The Melbourne Cup became the first race run in Australia with prize money of $1 million in 1985 and was won by "What a Nuisance". The Prince and Princess of Wales (Charles and Diana) attended that year's Cup race meeting, arriving by boat.

The total prize money awarded in 2005 and 2006 was AUD$5 million, plus trophies valued at AUD$100,000. As of May 7th, 2008, the Melbourne cup's prize money increased 10% to AUD$5.5 million with First place increasing 10% to AUD$3.3 million dollars. The prizemoney for places Second to Tenth have been adjusted upwards in a percentage formula commensurate with the various placings. The race carries a AUD$500,000 bonus to the owner for any horse that can win the Irish St Leger (G1) and the Melbourne Cup in the one year.

Handicap

The Melbourne Cup race is a handicap contest in which the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a nominated figure. Older horses carry more weight than younger ones, and weights are adjusted further according to the horse's previous results.

Weight were theoretically calculated to give each horse an equal winning chance in the past, but in recent years the rules were adjusted to a "quality handicap" formula where superior horses are given less severe weight penalties than under pure handicap rules.

Attendance

The event is one of the most popular spectator events in Australia, with sometimes over 110,000 people, some dressed in traditional formal raceday wear and others in all manner of exotic and amusing costumes, attending the race. The record crowd was 122,736 in 2003. The 1926 running of the Cup was the first time that the 100,000 mark had been passed. Today the record at Flemington is held by the 2006 Victoria Derby when almost 130,000 attended.

In 2007 a limit was placed on the Spring Carnival attendance at Flemington Racecourse and race-goers are now required to pre-purchase tickets..

  • 2006 - 106,691
  • 2005 - 106,479
  • 2004 - 98,181
  • 2003 - 122,736 (record).

Off the track

'Fashions On The Field' is a major focus of the day, with substantial prizes awarded for the best-dressed male and female racegoers. The requirement for elegant hats, and more recently the alternative of a fascinator, almost single-handedly keeps Melbourne's milliners in business. Raceday fashion has occasionally drawn almost as much attention as the race itself, The miniskirt received worldwide publicity when model Jean Shrimpton wore one on Derby Day during Melbourne Cup week in 1965.

Flowers, especially roses are an important component of the week's racing at Flemington. The racecourse has around 12000 roses within its large expanse. Over 200 varieties of the fragrant flower are nurtured by a team of up to 12 gardeners. Each of the major racedays at Flemington has an official flower. Victoria Derby Day has the Corn Flower, Melbourne Cup Day is for the Yellow Rose, Oaks Day highlights the Pink Rose and Stakes Day goes to the Red Rose.

In the Melbourne metropolitan area, the race day has been a gazetted public holiday since 1877, but around both Australia and New Zealand a majority of people watch the race on television and gamble, either through direct betting or participating in workplace cup "sweeps". As of April, 2007 the ACT also recognises Melbourne Cup Race Day as a holiday. In 2000 it was estimated that 80 percent of the adult Australian population placed a bet on the race that year. In New Zealand the Melbourne Cup is the country's single biggest betting event, with carnival race-days held at several of the country's top tracks showing the cup live on big screens.

See also

References

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