“Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.” – Mark Twain
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Today is Melbourne Cup Day here in my home city. At 3.00 pm, on the first Tuesday in November, Australians everywhere stop for one of the world’s most famous horse races - the Melbourne Cup. Even those who don’t usually bet, try their luck with a small bet or entry into a “sweep” (a lottery in which each ticket-holder is matched with a randomly drawn horse).
Since 1877, Melbourne Cup Day has been a public holiday for Melbourne, and crowds have flocked to Flemington. By 11.00 am the grandstand is packed to its 7,000 capacity, and by 3.00 pm, many tens of thousands of people usually gather around the racecourse. The party atmosphere often means that champagne and canapés, huge hats and racetrack fashions overshadow the business of horse racing.
The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861 at Flemington Racecourse and was won by Archer, a horse from Nowra, New South Wales, beating the local favourite, Mormon. The prize was a gold watch and £170. Dismissed by the bookies, Archer took a lot of money away from Melbourne, refuelling interstate rivalry and adding to the excitement of the Cup.
The Melbourne Cup is one of the world’s most challenging horse races and one of the richest (total prize money for 2020 – is $8 million, with the winner receiving $4.4 million), and is the highlight of the Spring Racing Carnival. The race is run over 3,200 metres and is a handicapped race. This means that the better the horse is, the more weight it has to carry in the race. The distance and the handicap ensure that the Melbourne Cup is a horse race in which the occasional punter has as good a chance of picking the winner as those who follow the form. It is a day when all Australians are considered to have an equal chance on the turf as well as on the lawn.
This year for the first time in its history, the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) advised the general public, that in light of the ongoing situation around government restrictions, as well as the current public health advice, it was not possible to welcome spectators to Flemington Racecourse for the 2020 Melbourne Cup Carnival. Hence, instead of hundreds of thousands in attendance within the racecourse and its grounds, the Cup was run with barely 200 people present.
The winners were:
First: No. 6 TWILIGHT PAYMENT
Second : No. 21 TIGER MOTH
Third: No. 12 PRINCE OF ARRAN
Fourth: No. 17 THE CHOSEN ONE
The very sad thing this year was that one of the horses running was injured (a broken fetlock) and had to be put down.
If you bet, I hope you backed a winning horse. If you are like me, and not a gambler, I hope you had a nice lunch with some ice-cold champagne and delicious food!