The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most prestigious Group 1 thoroughbred horse race. The race is also considered to be the most prestigious weight-for-age handicap in international racing, as well as the most prestigious stayers race in the world.
Melbourne Cup overview
The Melbourne Cup is run annually at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia as part of the city’s Spring Racing Carnival. The race is traditionally run on the first Tuesday in November, and the race day is a public holiday in most parts of the state of Victoria.
The Melbourne Cup is sometimes described as ‘the race that stops a nation’. A large percentage of the adult population of Australia take time off on the race day to watch the race. Large crowds are also the norm for the Melbourne Cup, with attendances in excess of 90,000 spectators the norm.
In addition the Melbourne Cup attracts international attention, and is now a popular event in the UK thanks the increasing number of British-trained horses who compete in the event.
The Melbourne Cup is run over a distance of 3,200 meters (2 miles). Entry to the race is open to 3-year-old and above thoroughbred racehorses. Horses are required to carry additional weight in the Melbourne Cup dependent on their age and recent form. The size of the field is currently limited to 24 horses.
The top ten finishers in the Melbourne Cup share a prize fund of AS$6,200,000, with $3,600,000 going to the winner horse and its connections. The winning owner also receives an 18-carat gold trophy, with the winning trainer and jockey receiving smaller replicas.
Competing in the Melbourne Cup
Thousands of horses are entered into the Melbourne Cup every year, with only two dozen making the final field. The winners of a selection of international stayers’ races can secure automatic entry into the race, with these races including the Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and the Irish St. Leger.
The remaining horses are required to go through a balloting process and several stages of declarations, each of which requires payment of a declaration fee. Horses travelling to the Melbourne Cup are required to spend at least 14 days in quarantine before competing in the event.
Melbourne Cup race history
The Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861. The race enjoyed almost instantaneous popularity, and the inaugural race attracted around 4,000 spectators. Within the next two decades the race became such a popular fixture that it was declared a public holiday in the city of Melbourne.
Since then the Melbourne Cup has set the scene for some of the most famous performances in Australian racing history. Notable amongst these was Phar Lap’s win at the 1930 Melbourne Cup, when one of the greatest racehorses of all time won one of the most coveted race titles in the world.
For more information about the Melbourne Cup, visit our Melbourne Cup FAQ.