For most Australians, the first Tuesday of November is synonymous with an event like no other - the annual running of the time-honoured Melbourne Cup from Flemington racecourse in Victoria.
2013 Melbourne Cup Odds Market
The Melbourne Cup is undoubtedly the most important day of the Spring Racing Carnival and is arguably one of the biggest events in the Australian sporting calender, if not the world!
And, this "race that stops the nation"™ does exactly that.
In the middle of the afternoon, from one end of the country to the other, punters and non-punters alike hold their collective breaths as the chosen hopefuls take on the 3200m distance at Flemington Racecourse, home to the Melbourne Cup.
First run in 1861 when taken out by Archer before a crowd of 4000 for a simple prize of a gold watch and a princely sum of £170, the Melbourne Cup has grown to be the richest handicap race in Australia, averaging attendances of over 100,000 in the past decade, and with the first-placed horse in the 2012 renewal, Green Moon, taking home a prize of $3.3 million.
The Cup is part of a lengthy Spring Racing Carnival in Victoria, headlining a range of other important lead-up races including the Caulfield Guineas, the Caulfield Cup, the W.S Cox Plate, the Manikato Stakes and the Mackinnon Stakes.
Despite this rich build up to that first Tuesday in November, the Melbourne Cup remains the jewel in the crown of the Carnival and one of the most sought after horse racing cups in the world.
Even royalty have been in attendance, with Prince Charles and Lady Camilla presenting the 2012 trophy to Green Moon's connections, the Lloyd Williams family.
This could be no more evident than by the ever-increasing numbers of foreign raiders showing interest in the Cup, with many recent fields dominated by internationally-bred thoroughbreds from the world over.
With this in mind, the Melbourne Cup could very soon become 'the race that stops all nations'!
But it's not just about the racing.
The Melbourne Cup is a landmark day for the people of Victoria, so much so, that it was made a public holiday in the mid 1870s. And it's not just the locals who find themselves drawn to it, with excited attendees from all around the country, and the world, heading to Flemington Racecourse for this historical day at the oldest continuing metropolitan racecourse in Australia.
Flemington transforms into one huge party on Cup day, with many attending taking the opportunity to dress in their finest. In fact, 'Fashions on the Field' has become almost as a big a focus of the day as the race itself! In particular, at least for women attending, elegant hats (or in more recent times a 'fascinator') have become a tradition of the day and at Cup parties held in backyards, pubs and offices Australia-wide.
Flowers are similarly important at Flemington, or roses, to be precise, with over 200 varieties tended to the year round by a team of gardeners, with the yellow rose being the floral symbol of Cup Day itself.
Fashion and flowers run a distant second and third, however, to the great race itself when the clock ticks over to 3.00pm (15:00 AEST), the starting gate opens and the Melbourne Cup begins, with 24 horses thudding the Flemington turf in pursuit of the great prize.
The Melbourne Cup is one of those days that every racing fan, and, indeed, anyone who enjoys a heart-stopping, breathtaking, spectacular event, must attend once.
It's a magical day to take in the fashions and the flowers; to witness some of the best thoroughbreds in the world and their skilful riders doing all in their power to claim a piece of horse racing glory; and, of course, to have a flutter on the greatest day of the Australian horse racing calender!
Here's to this year's great Melbourne Cup, and many more to come...
And don't forget to get in early with all your Spring Carnival Betting and Melbourne Cup Betting, with Betfair offering brilliant Melbourne Cup odds throughout the year!
Weird and Wonderful facts about the Melbourne Cup.
1. It wasn't until 1875 that the Melbourne Cup was run on a Tuesday
2. Five horses have won back-to-back Cups: Archer, Peter Pan, Rain Lover, Think Big and Makybe Diva
3. The greatest winning margin of eight lengths is held by two horses – Archer and Rain Lover
4. The fastest race tie was run by Kingston Rule in 1993. No other horse has broken his 3:16:30 record...yet.
5. The highest weight was the great Phar Lap at 68kgs
6. Bobbie Lewis and Harry white are tied for the most wins by a jockey at four apiece.
7. Saddle-cloths 4 and 12 top the table for most wins, with 11 each.
8. The film 'The Cup' was made to commemorate the win of Damien Oliver on Media Puzzle in 2002. After winning the Cup , an emotional Oliver in a post-race interview famously said, “Melbourne Cups don't mean anything any more. I'd give it back right now to have my brother back” as he grieved the recent death of his brother Jason who died a week before falling from a horse during training.
9. With 43 winners each, four and five-year-old horses have the best Melbourne Cup winning records...BUT...in the past eleven years, six-year-olds have dominated with five wins.
10. Bart Cummings is the Cups King, having taken a record 12 Melbourne Cups and five quinellas.
11. Six greys have won the Cup, with the most recent being Subzero in 1992.
12. Since barriers were introduced in 1924, barrier 18 has never produced a Melbourne Cup winner.
13. The longest odds were 100/1 on the Pearl (1871), Wotan (1936) and Old Rowley (1940, with the shortest, 8/11, on Phar Lap (1930)
14. The record Melbourne Cup Trifecta was a whopping $61, 687.90 in 1993.
15. Favourites have won a fifth of Melbourne Cups, 32 out of 151, but a favourite hasn't saluted since Makybe Diva in 2005
16. Eleven horses have taken out the Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double, the most recent being Ethereal in 2001
17. Within about half an hour of a Melbourne Cup being run, the ante-post betting markets for following year are already live!