While there are many horse racing events in the world, for some reason, the Melbourne Cup seems to tower above many of them in terms of fame – and is even named ‘the race that stops the nation’.
But have you ever wondered why Australia’s most famous yearly thoroughbred horse race is so famous? There are many reasons, and today, we’re going to discuss some of them, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.
Some Quick Facts About the Melbourne Cup First
As with any horse racing event in the world, the Melbourne Cup has a specific set of rules and bits of information that we will investigate before delving into the event’s fame.
The race is a 3 200m that only allows horses at or above the age of three years to participate. It occurs every year at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria, where the Victoria Racing Club hosts the grand event.
Arguably one of the richest turf races, and considered the richest two-mile handicap in the world, the race takes place on the first Tuesday of November every year.
The Sheer Age of the Event
As with many popular things in the world, age often plays a role. The Melbourne Cup is no different in this case, having had its first race all the way back in 1861 – that makes the Melbourne Cup 161 years old.
The race is so old that it was initially run over two miles, only to be later changed to 3.2km when Australia adopted the Metric System.
At this point, the race is so ingrained in the traditions of Melbourne, it’s hard to imagine that it will ever go away.
Massive Prizes and Amazing Trophies
Many popular sports draw not only viewers but extensive participation due to their large prize pools. The Melbourne Cup has had varying prize pools of late, having increased from $4,600,000 in 2004 up to $8,000,000 in 2021.
It’s easy to see why any horse racing enthusiast would want to try their luck, skill, and training at the Melbourne Cup. Winning even once can mean a life-changing amount of prize money for any racer.
Aside from the prize money that racers stand to gain, there are also the trophies.
While it is a known fact that the first winner of the Melbourne Cup back in 1861 only received a golden watch, the competition saw to it that by 1865 they were handing out beautiful trophies. The first few trophies were manufactured in England, consisting of elaborate silver bowls on stands.
While most of the original trophies have been bought by famous personalities or museums. Nowadays, the trophies consist of 1.65kg of 18-carat gold, are hand-made, are created every year for the event, and reside with the winner of the competition in the relevant year.
Being a handicap race also means that the race is not just open to the elite of the elite, but rather any horse, since all horses are given handicapped weight to even the odds. It truly is an ‘anything can happen’ type of event.
Who wouldn’t want such a prestigious and beautiful trophy at home?
It’s Celebrated by the Entire Country
Well, we’re sure some people use the time to do something else, but most Australians watch the Melbourne Cup. Even the famous author, Mark Twain, watched it back in his day.
It is widely considered normal for most businesses and workshops around the country to close shop early on the first Tuesday of November so everyone can enjoy the race. By 3pm – when the race starts – hundreds of thousands of people are watching, anxiously awaiting the crowned winner of the Melbourne Cup for the year.
It is one of few events around the world that manages such a country-wide participation every year. And it’s not just in Australia. Some claim that more than 700 million people from more than 120 countries tune in to watch the broadcast.
The Chance to be Right There
Aside from the multitudes of people tuning in to watch the race at 3pm, there are thousands more that claim their seat at the Flemington track to see the race up close. With a capacity of only 100,000 people, getting a seat is a hard-fought and sought-after commodity.
People often book their tickets far in advance just so they don’t miss the event – even if they have no certainty regarding their ability to attend the event.
The Melbourne Cup is easily one of the biggest horse racing events in the world, and given its age, prestige, and viewer count, it’s easy to understand why.
With so many people tuning in to watch horses of all skill levels battle it out in a once-a-year event, there is never a dull moment on the track once the race kicks off at 3 PM.
If you’ve never watched a horse racing event, why not start with this one? It’s almost time for this year’s spectacle.