History Tuesday/The Melbourne Cup


Hello Tuesday, well it is the first Tuesday in November and that means it is Melbourne Cup day also know as the race that stops a nation. This is of course a horse race, it is a 3,200 metre race for three-year-olds and over, it is the richest “two-mile” handicap race in the world and considered one of the richest turf races.

It is held by the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington, in Melbourne of course which for those who do not know is in the state of Victoria, the race runs at 3pm in the afternoon of course this is daylight savings time.

The race was first held in 1861 and it is pretty much a given that the race club committee could envisage that the cup would still be around over a century and half later and growing to be such a big part of our social and sporting culture.

Back in 1861 the race was held in front of about 4,000 people but by 1880 around 100,000 people would be at Flemington to see the race, the population of Melbourne was only around 290,000 at the time. People also travelled to Melbourne from all over the country for the race.

The first race was won by Archer in 3.52 minutes, the recorded for the fastest win is held by Kingston Rule in 3.16 minutes who won the race in 1990. The first race was 3,219 metres but has since been shortened to 1,868 metres.

Of course it costs to enter the Melbourne Cup the initial entry fee is $600 per horse around 300-400 horses are nominated each year but there is only 24 horses in the race. Following the allocation of weights the owner of each horse must on four occasions before the race delcare the horse as an acceptor and pay a fee. First acceptance is $960, second acceptance is $1,450 and third acceptance is $2,420 the final acceptance fee on the Saturday prior to the race is $45,375, should a horse be balloted out of the final field the final declaration fee is refunded.

Horses come from all over the world to enter the race and for many years it has been won by foreign horses for many years, the first horse bred in neither Australia or New Zealand to win a Melbourne Cup was the British horse Backwood in 1924. This year 18 of the 24 are from overseas.

The first winner received a gold watch, the first Melbourne Cup trophy was awarded in 1865 and was an elaborate silver bowl on a stand that had been manufactured in England. The first existing and un-altered Melbourne Cup is from 1866 is in the National Museum of Australia. The silver trophy presented in 1867 also in the National Museum of Australia was made in England but Victorian jewellers complained to the Victorian Racing Club that the trophy should have been made locally. No trophy was awarded for the next eight years.

It was in 1876 that an immigrant for Austria produced the first Australian-made trophy it was an Etruscan shape with two handle, one side depicted a horse race with the grandstand and hill of Flemington in the background. The opposite side had the words “Melbourne Cup, 1876” and the name of the winning horse. A silver plated base sporting three horses was added in 1888 but in 1891 the prize changed again to a Victory figure offering a olive wreath to a jockey. In 1899 the trophy was in the form of a sliver galloping horse embossed on a 3ft long plaque, although some thought it looked more like a greyhound then a horse.

The last Melbourne Cup trophy made in England was made for the 1914 race, it was a chalice centred on a long bask which had a horse at each end, the trophy awarded in 1916 was the first gold trophy which was a three-legged, three-armed rose bowl. In 1919 the three-handled loving cup design was awarded.

It was also in 1919 that the Victorian Racing Club commissioned James Steeth to design a trophy that would be in keeping with the prestige of the race, little realising that it would become the iconic Melbourne Cup that is still presented today.

During the Second World War (1942, 43 & 44) the winning owner received war bonds to the value of 200 pounds.

A new trophy is stuck each year and becomes the property of the winning owner, in the event of a dead heat a second cup is on hand. The present trophy is made by Hardy Brothers from 34 pieces of gold metal hand beaten for over 200 hours, close inspection of the inside of the Cup will reveal small hammer imprints.

As of 2008, the trophy values were increased and the Cup now contains 1.65kg of 18 carat gold valuing the trophy at around $125,000. The winning trainer and jockey also receive a miniature replica of the cup and the strapper is awarded the Tommy Woodcock trophy named after the strapper of Phar Lap.

Now you may be wondering why it is called the race that stops a nation, well this is because on Melbourne Cup day many businesses will have a break between 2.45-3.15 while the race is run, often staff will meet in the meal room for a cuppa and cake and listen to the race. Many stores will broadcast the running of the race over the P A for customers and staff to listen too.

Melbourne Cup Day officially became a public holiday in 1877 for those living in Melbourne, however, while all of Melbourne’s 31 metropolitan councils celebrated the first Tuesday in November there was a gap where some regional councils did not so in 2008 the Victorian Parliament passed a new legislation that saw Melbourne Cup Day as a public holiday for all council areas in the state except those where other holidays had been designated. This means that Melbourne Cup Day is now officially a public holiday throughout the state.

I have never had a bet on the Melbourne Cup but I can remember my nan always having a flutter and listening to the race and yelling for her horse to win.

155th melbourne cup


2 thoughts on “History Tuesday/The Melbourne Cup

  1. So you have to invest roughly $50K to maybe win $125K? Doesn’t sound worth the risk. But I guess there are a lot of other related financial perks like breeding and public appearances that generate other revenue. I love that at one point the trophy looked like it had a greyhound rather than a horse on it. I’m curious if horse racing would still be around if it weren’t for the gambling aspect. If nobody could bet on a horse race, would we still care?

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