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The Melbourne Cup

Listed under Spectator Sports in Melbourne, Australia.

  • Photo of The Melbourne Cup
  • Photo of The Melbourne Cup
Photo of The Melbourne Cup
Photo by flickr user Banamine
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Does every country have a ‘Race that stops the nation’? A racing event so important and well loved that for three minutes a year pretty much everyone in an entire country is glued to their screen watching horses run around a track? The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s and does just that. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like horse racing, if you’re an avid animal rights activist or leader of a chapter of Gamblers Anonymous, if you’re in Australia at around 3pm on the first Tuesday in November, you’ll probably still find yourself in front of a telly.

Usually warm and sunny there is a feeling of anticipation all day. In Victoria it’s a public holiday, but throughout the rest of the country Cup Day is a good reason for a little extra festival, most offices have a sweep, people drink champagne (more than they would on a regular Tuesday) and women wear hats. The closer you can get to the Flemington Race Course the more cup fever takes hold. You could easily find yourself picnicking on the lawn wearing your best racing garb or peering over the rails as race after race is run leading up to the big countdown… Racecourses are exciting places anyway, money is won and lost, in fact in 2000 it was estimated that 80% of Australia’s adult population had a flutter - people are splashing the cash - and the Australian weather means people don’t need much of an excuse to spend the day outside drinking, eating and enjoying themselves.

The first cup was raced in 1861. Originally run over two miles, when metric come in it lost about 60ft off its length and is now 3,200 metres. Since the 90’s more international horses have been entered, but the general idea is still the same. The big winner in recent memory has been Makybe Diva, who won in 2003, then became the first mare to win twice in 2004, and then the first horse to win three times in 2005. Amid tears, Diva’s trainer famously said you would need to find the youngest child on the course if you wanted to see someone who may see it done again in their lifetime. Legendary steed Phar Lap only won it once and came in third the following year.

The fashions of cup day are just as much a part as the race itself, with people going all out in finery or dressing in costume…basically the whole day is a spectacle of racing glamour.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

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