The Melbourne Cup
Thoroughbred horse racing is a major sport in Australia; many important races are held every year in the nation. The Melbourne Cup is the most important of them all, one of the richest horse races to be run on a grass surface. It was traditionally run over exactly two miles, but the distance was reduced slightly when Australia adopted the metric system. It's now an even 3,200 meters. Known as "the race that stops a nation" due to its popularity, the Melbourne Cup day is a public holiday. We provide more details on the Australian race below.
The Melbourne Cup is held at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria. It takes place each year on the first Tuesday of November, starting at 3pm. It's a handicap race for Thoroughbreds aged three years and older. The prize pool is over AU$6 million, making it the richest two-mile handicap race in the world. Weights are added to the horses to make the competition as equal as possible. The field is limited to a maximum of 24 runners. Winners of certain other races throughout the year are guaranteed a place, and there's a ballot for the remaining places. The race directors can, at their discretion, give automatic entry to a horse or they can exclude a horse.
The First Melbourne Cup
The inaugural Melbourne Cup was run on Thursday, November 7, 1861 with seventeen horses competing. Three of the starters fell during the race, and two of the fallers died. The race was won by a stallion named Archer, who had been given little chance of winning. As it turned out, he won by six lengths over the favorite, Mormon. Archer returned the following year winning by eight lengths in a field of twenty runners. This achievement of winning consecutive Melbourne Cups wasn't repeated for over one hundred years when Rain Lover did it in the 1960s.
Archer was also due to race in the 1863 Melbourne Cup but was disqualified before the race due to a late-arriving entry. Several owners of other horses didn't agreed with the decision to disqualify Archer and chose to boycott the race. Only seven horses took part that year, the lowest number of starters ever in the history of the Melbourne Cup.
Notable Events in Melbourne Cup History
As you would expect from a race that has been around for so long, the Melbourne Cup has a very interesting history, and there have been several notable events. In 1865, just four years after the first race, Melbourne Cup day became a half-day holiday for public and bank employees in the city. In 1873, it was declared a public holiday. Two years later in 1875, the Melbourne Cup was run on the first Tuesday in November; this was the first time it had been run on this day. It has been run on the first Tuesday of November ever since. The following year, 1876, a record was set that has never been beaten. Peter St. Albans became the youngest winning jockey of the Melbourne Cup when he won the race on Briseis just a few days short of this thirteenth birthday.
1876 was also the fateful year that a ship carrying a number of horses due to race in the Melbourne Cup got hit by a storm. Eleven contenders for the race, including the favorite Nemesis, were killed. This dramatically effected betting, and a bookmaking firm (much to the anger of the public) gave the captain of the ship a purse of gold coins as a thank you for saving them a large amount of money that had already been wagered on the horses that had died.
1910 saw the first foreign-bred horse win the race: Comedy King. There hasn't been many foreign bred horses prevail since. One particular, Phar Lap, was the favorite for the 1930 Melbourne Cup priced at 11/8 on. This was the shortest price for a favorite ever, and the horse had to be hidden away following an attempt to shoot him. Phar Lap duly went on to win the race, and went on to become one of the best known and most loved horses in Australia.
In 1948, the photo finish camera was used for the first time at the Melbourne Cup when Rimfire was adjudged to have beaten Dark Marne. At the time, many people believed this was the wrong result, and the camera was later found to have been positioned incorrectly. Ten years later, starting stalls were used in the Melbourne Cup for the first time. 1985 was another first; the prize pool was AU$1 million. No account of Melbourne Cup history would be complete without a mention of Makybe Diva. In 2005, this horse became the first (and so far the only) horse to win the race three times.
Betting on the Melbourne Cup
The 2016 Melbourne Cup will be held on the 1st of November. As always, betting interest in the race will be high and opinion is sure to be divided on which horse will win. Nearer the time of the race, we will offer some advice on the runners and riders, so please bookmark this page and check back soon. There will be plenty of opportunities for betting on the 2015 Melbourne Cup, and the best online horse racing betting sites will be sure to have a host of markets including specials and prop bets.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: March 2016
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