The Melbourne Cup

On the Australian continent, no Thoroughbred race comes close to matching the Melbourne Cup for pure excitement or history. Every November, for over 150 years, the populations of Australia and New Zealand tend to take a break from whatever they’re doing to sit down and watch this two-mile test of Thoroughbred excellence. Some of the finest performers in the history of the sport in both countries have made their mark by winning the Melbourne Cup.

Melbourne Cup LogoConsidering that Australian sports fans tend to concentrate on football and cricket as their two main pastimes, it says something about the Melbourne Cup that it manages to captivate the nation in such a way. The familiar saying is that it’s “the race that stops a nation,” considering how it’s treated as practically an Australian national holiday. New Zealand’s citizens also tend to base their activities on that first Tuesday in November around this event.

One of the unique characteristics about The Melbourne Cup, as compared to other great horse races, is that it’s run under handicap conditions. That means that every horse is given a decent chance to win due to weight allowances for the better competitors. Because of that, Melbourne Cup betting is extremely popular in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout the world.

The Particulars of the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup takes place every November on the first Tuesday of the month, presented by the Victoria Racing Club. It’s held at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia at a distance of two miles. Grass is the surface trod by the horses, who vie for a purse that currently sits at 7.3 million Australian dollars.

Horses can qualify for the race either by winning one of several qualifying races or by being chosen by officials. The number of competitors is limited to 24 horses in a given year, although there can sometimes be less than that. For the first 111 years of its existence, the Melbourne Cup was a bit longer than two miles, but it was reduced to the current distance (3,200 meters) upon Australia’s switch to the metric system.

For most of the time it has been held, the Melbourne Cup was run under strict handicap conditions. That means that, theoretically, each horse in the field would have an equal chance to win because the better horses would be handicapped. This is achieved by adding ballast to the jockey and his or her riding equipment.

In recent years, race officials have adjusted these rules somewhat. While there are still handicaps added to the older horses, the severity of these weight additions has been lessened. The driving force behind these changes was a desire to have more foreign horse owners bring their standout performers to Australia to compete for the Cup.

Hence, the race is known as a “quality handicap.” Older horses are always assigned more weight than younger ones. As for horses of the same age, the heavier weights are assigned to those horses whose past performances indicate that they might be better equipped to win the race than the others in the same age group.

Bettors can really take advantage of this because it reduces the possibility of a heavy favorite in the race. When you add in the size of the fields, the Melbourne Cup is like catnip for bettors. There always seems to be a value play or two in the field with the capability of bringing home a big payout on a small wager.

Origins of the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup was first created by the Victoria Turf Club, a group which would eventually transform into the Victoria Racing Club. Frederick Standish, a police commissioner, is credited with having the idea for a race on the site that would become Flemington Racecourse. 710 gold sovereigns were designated as the purse for the original race on November 7, 1861.

Originally, the winning owners received a gold watch as part of the prize. Eventually, a cup was created, and the cup has become one of the traditions of the race. In fact, the actual Melbourne Cup trophy is so renowned that it annually tours remote regions and small communities in Australia and New Zealand.

Historic Melbourne Cup Winners


The same horse won the first two races. A stallion named Archer would win the inaugural race, and then would go out and win another two-mile race the next day. He came back and defended his title the next year. A paperwork error denied him the chance to make it three in a row in 1863.


Briseis, a three-year-old filly, wins the Victoria Racing Club Derby, the Melbourne Cup, and the Victoria Racing Club Oaks in a six-day span. The Derby and Oaks were patterned after the Epsom Derby and Oaks in Great Britain


Grand Flaneur wins the Melbourne Cup as part of his unbeaten career. He would be a successful stud as well, siring two winners of the race.


Martini-Henry becomes the first New Zealand-bred horse to win the Cup.


Carbine wins the Melbourne Cup despite being saddled with the heaviest weight penalty of any winner in race history. The feat was even more impressive considering that there were 39 runners in that edition of the race, the most ever.


Poseidon, in a career that included 11 wins in 14 races, wins both the Melbourne Cup and the Caulfield Cup for the so-called “Cup Double.”>


The first ever horse not bred in Australia or New Zealand to win the race is Comedy King.


Phar Lap, the most famous horse in Australia racing history, wins his only Melbourne Cup in three attempts as a heavy favorite.

1932, 1934

Peter Pan wins in these two years, the only horse to win two non-consecutive Cups.


Hall Mark overcame an infection on his hoof that burst and bled late in the race to win.


Even though she wasn’t credited as such due to existing rules, Mrs. Allan McDonald becomes the first female trainer to win the race, saddling Catalogue.


Skipton wins as a three-year-old colt. No three-year-old would win the race for another 76 years.


Rain Lover wins back-to-back cups. His first win in ’68 matched Archer’s 1862 victory for largest winning margin at eight lengths.


Gala Supreme wins with jockey Frank Reys who becomes the first ever Australian Aboriginal jockey to win. None has won since.


Another double-winner as Think Big manages the feat.


Vintage Crop becomes the first ever horse trained in Ireland to capture the Melbourne Cup.


One of the finest horses in recent Australian history, Might and Power wins the Melbourne Cup to complete the Cup Double.


The mare Makybe Diva does the unthinkable and wins three straight Melbourne Cups, the only horse to ever accomplish the feat in race history.


A French-trained horse named Americain wins the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup

Recent Melbourne Cup Races

Year Horse Jockey
2013 Fiorente Damien Oliver
2014 Protectionist Ryan Moore
2015 Prince of Penzance Michelle Payne
2016 Almandin Kerrin McEvoy
2017 Rekindling Corey Moore
2018 Cross Counter Kevin McEvoy
2019 Vow and Declare Craig Williams

Melbourne Cup Traditions

The Melbourne Cup is the showcase event of the Spring Racing Carnival put on each year by the Victoria Racing Club. This event comes right in between the seasons for football and rugby, the two most popular sports among the Australian fans. As a result, horse racing gets the chance to grab public attention during this hiatus, and the Racing Carnival takes advantage of that.

In Melbourne, that means that both the Victorian Racing Club Derby and the Victorian Racing Club Oaks, also take place in that short time span, but the Melbourne Cup stands above them all. The Tuesday when it’s held is treated as a public holiday. That means that many people get off work to either attend or watch it on television.

Television helped to popularize Melbourne Cup betting and the Melbourne Cup horse race in general when it was first shown live in 1960. Prior to that, the first radio broadcast took place in 1925. In modern times, the Melbourne Cup can be easily seen by fans and bettors, either on television or online.

As is the case with many famous horse races all over the world, the Melbourne Cup has become a major cultural event. A Fashions on the Field event is a significant part of the festivities, with hats and fascinators dominating the attire. Many celebrities from all around the world also visit to take in the sights and sounds of this wonderful race.

Betting Tips for the Melbourne Cup

You might be lucky enough to be in Melbourne some November and can actually bet on site. More than likely, though, you’ll have to settle for a remote bet. Here are some tips for how to place your bet in the most effective way possible.

Betting on the Melbourne Cup Online

Horse racing betting sites are all over the place these days. Since the Melbourne Cup is a major event, most of these will give you the chance to wager on it. The trick is finding the right one for your betting needs and desires.

Once you identify what you want out of a site, you’ll be able to choose the proper one for you. Decide what kinds of incentives you’d like to receive for creating an account on the site. Look for reviews about the customer service level that you’ll get from each site.

In addition, you should try to locate a betting website that has established some sort of reputation with horseplayers.

Just because a site offers horse racing on its menu of betting options, that doesn’t mean that it’s suited to those who bet the sport all the time. Visit the Melbourne Cup betting sites, look around, see if they’re easy to navigate, and choose one that will make your wagers on the Melbourne Cup, and any other horse races on your schedule, come off smooth and easy.

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Types of Bets on the Melbourne Cup

Decide if you want to keep it simple or make it complicated concerning your Melbourne Cup betting experience. There are certain types of horse racing bets that will allow you to focus on a single horse, thereby eliminating concerns about other horses in the field. You can also find bets that let you place wagers on multiple horses throughout the field.

What you’ll find is that the straight bets to win or place are easier to win. They also won’t pay nearly as much, unless you can get a long shot. By contrast, the more exotic wagers won’t be easy to hit, but they are more certain to pay off a lot if you win.

Strategies for Betting on the Melbourne Cup Online

One facet about real money Melbourne Cup betting that stands out is the fact that a relatively low percentage of favorites win the race, at least compared to other major stakes races. The handicap structure has a lot to do with this. Whereas a horse might be the best in the field, the added weight evens the playing field considerably.

As a result, your horse betting strategy on the Cup should include looking closely at the weight assigned to each horse. Look to see if any of its past performances show similar weights and how the horse did in those races. If the horse carried significantly less weight in its past, that might be a sign that it’s not ready to make two miles with the extra ballast in the Cup.

Melbourne Cup FAQ

Which Jockey Has Won the Cup More Than Any Other?

Bobby Lewis and Harry White share honors with four Melbourne Cup wins apiece. White achieved his in a short six-year span from 1974 to 1979.

Which Trainer Has the Most Melbourne Cup Wins?

It’s Bart Cummings, and it’s not even close. The so-called “Cups King” has won the race 12 times, which is seven more than his closest competitor.

What Is the Fastest Time in Race History?

Kingston Rule won the Cup in 1990 in a record time of 3 minutes and 16.30 seconds.

Who Was the Most Prohibitive Favorite in the History of the Race?

The great Phar Lap went off at odds of 8-11 in 1930. He did win to deliver on his betting promise.