The Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most prestigious horse race, takes place every first Tuesday of November at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Since the Cup’s debut in 1861, it has become an iconic aspect of the global sports culture. Melbourne Cup Day has been a non-working day in Victoria since 1877 when it was first designated a public holiday.
With over 100,000 spectators every year, “The Race that Stops a Nation” is one of the most anticipated sporting events in the history of horseracing. But while the Flemington Racecourse can only accommodate 120,000 people, it’s still possible for everyone to watch the Melbourne Cup live through a streaming service. (1)
As the Melbourne Cup season approaches, these interesting facts and figures will keep you occupied until the race begins.
- The first Melbourne Cup winner
The very first Melbourne Cup race took place on November 7, 1861. Archer, a 16.3-hand bay stallion, prevailed in the race. Etienne de Mestre trained the horse, while John Cutts, one of the sport’s most well-known riders back then, rode it to victory.
The winning team received a gold watch and 710 gold sovereigns. On that particular day, 17 horses entered the race. In the end, the outsider came out on top, over a top contender named Mormon by six lengths.
In 1862, John Cutts and Archer returned for a second victory, making them the first team to be on the Melbourne Cup placings on more than one occasion.
- The trainer who won the most Melbourne Cup
With 12 victories in the Melbourne Cup, veteran horse trainer Bart Cummings made history for most successes as a trainer. His first championship came in 1965, and his final win was in 2008.
Cummings’ first three wins came in a row from 1965 to 1967. Then, in 1974 and 1975, he worked alongside Harry White. Together, they won the Melbourne Cup twice in a row. Eventually, in the 1980s, Melbourne Cup champion Bart Cummings went on hiatus.
The next two most successful trainers were Etienne de Mestre and Lee Freedman. Both have five victories to their credit.
- The first female jockey to win
In 2015, Michelle Payne broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. She won the race riding a six-year-old gelding Prince of Penzance, which Darren Weir trained.
Michelle is the youngest member of a renowned racing family. Throughout her career, she has sustained numerous injuries and falls. The worst incident occurred in March 2004, when she fell at Melbourne’s Sandown Racecourse. Payne fractured her skull and bruised her brain on that incident. (2)
To date, she’s still the only female jockey to have won this prestigious horseracing event. As a tribute, a film about Michelle Payne’s life and Melbourne Cup victory, entitled “Ride Like a Girl,” was released in September 2019.
- The horse who won the most race
The most successful thoroughbred in the history of the high-stakes Melbourne Cup competition is Makybe Diva. She was victorious three times in a row from 2003 and 2005. David Hall first trained her for the 2003 race. Then, Lee Freedman took charge of her training the following year. Finally, it was Glen Boss who rode her to victory in all three events.
She’s the only horse in the world to have three-peated in the most prestigious Melbourne Cup. In recognition of Makybe Diva’s victories, the Australian Racing Hall of Fame named her a legend. Other horses who won more than once in Melbourne Cup include Think Big (1974-1975), Rain Lover (1968-1969), Peter Pan (1932 and 1934), and Archer (1861-1862). (3)
- Record winning time
In 1990, Kingston Rule set a new record for the quickest time ever in the Melbourne Cup. He raced 3,200 meters in 3 minutes, 16.3 seconds, setting a new personal best. To date, he still holds the record for the fastest time in the Melbourne Cup. His victory also earned trainer Bart Cummings his seventh victory in this most prestigious race. (4)
- Most popular winner
Phar Lap is regarded as one of the most famous Australian thoroughbred racehorses of all time. With jockey Ken Pike aboard, he scored the Melbourne Cup in 1930. In several of his victories, Phar Lap was far ahead of the competition and finished around halfway.
Phar Lap’s fame stemmed not just from his victory but also from his modest beginnings. His remarkable ascent from modest origins spoke powerfully to the aspirations and ambitions of Australians throughout the Depression era. Today, he remains a popular symbol. In fact, his mounted hide was donated to Melbourne’s Museum of Victoria. (5)
Melbourne Cup Day 2021
Melbourne Cup Day is a significant sport and social occasion. This year’s event will take place on November 2. According to reports, fewer foreign horses will be allowed to compete due to major changes, although the Melbourne Cup will maintain its present capacity. Additionally, the race could be watched live on mobile devices and tablets.
1. ” How the Melbourne Cup became Australia’s prestigious race”, Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-37795758
2. “Notable winners of the Melbourne Cup”, Source: https://guides.slv.vic.gov.au/melbournecup/horses
3. “Makybe Diva officially a legend”, Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-09-06/makybe-diva-officially-a-legend/2249744
4. “Kingston Rule, Son of Secretariat, Sets Record to Win Melbourne Cup”, Source: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-11-06-sp-4276-story.html
5. “Phar Lap collection”, Source: https://www.nma.gov.au/explore/collection/highlights/phar-lap-collection