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Funny Horse Facts | Melbourne Cup History To The Greatest Horse Race

Posted By: JR

When people think of horse racing they look to the fanatical race-goers of Hong Kong, or the civilized Top Hat and Tail world of Ascot. But when it comes to horse racing there is no more prestigious or one that enthralls a nation like the Melbourne Cup. This truly is a race that stops a nation with the state that holds the event, Victoria, having a public holiday and in many other areas of the country it might as well be with Melbourne Cup functions, lunches and events to celebrate the historical race that has been run since 1861 when Archer was walked to the Cup.

The Melbourne Cup Day is fixed on the first Tuesday in November. This horse race is honoured as one of the World’s greatest handicap races. It is always held at Flemington, a Melbourne suburb. There is a small history behind this racecourse where the Cup day is celebrated annually. The first contest was held in 1861 where seventeen horses contested the race. Since it was first run, in 1861, a legend has grown up around ‘The Cup. and in 2010 we celebrate the 150th running of the Cup

The Melbourne Cup is run as a “handicap” where the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a pre-determined figure. The weight varies with the age of the horse and older horses are given more weight compared to the younger ones. The previous results of the horse are also considered to determine the weight.

For many years, I have stumbled through the pages of the history of the Melbourne Cup. I have collected the fables and the folklore, the facts and the fictions, the superstitions and the super stories. In this brief article, I have certainly included some information to start your Melbourne Cup journey and may be to help you make your selection for the race in the upcoming year.

The history of Melbourne cup dates from 1788 when the First Fleet landed at Port Jackson carrying convicts, other cargo, and a stallion, four mares, a colt and a filly. This was no Noah’s ark, but the seasick beasts paved way for the horse race history. In Melbourne settlers set up residence during 1835, and they prepared a racing track to continue with their favourite horseracing. These people missed their favourite horse race due to their long sea voyages. Bullock carts were used as grandstands and the winning post was marked by a coat stand. The currency for placing bets was bottles of rum.

The event became popular and it was time to change the venue. There after, horseracing was held in Fleming Town on the banks of the Maribyrnong River. In March 1840, the beginning of official horse racing history in Melbourne was signaled by a three-day event. Until 1861, minor clubs took charge of arranging for the horseracing. Later, the Victoria Turf Club took over and held the first official Melbourne Cup on Thursday 7th November 1861. This historic race was held between seventeen horses. The first lucky horse to win the first historical race is Archer. The owner and the horse travelled for a long distance to participate in the cup. They had to walk all the way from Nowra in NSW to take part in racing. His efforts were duly rewarded and a handcrafted gold watch with ?170 prize money was awarded to him. This motivated him to win the cup again the following year and became the first of only five other horses to win the Cup multiple times.

The Victoria Turf Club that was responsible for arranging the horse race event merged with the Victoria Jockey Club in 1864 to form the Victoria Racing Club. This club then took charge of proceedings from 1864 to conduct the horse race legally. In 1871, the Victoria Racing Club Act was passed which granted the VRC legal rights to conduct races in the Flemington Racecourse. The sport was gaining popularity over time and it became a wellknown event in Melbourne. During the cup day, many people started travelling from various parts of the country to Flemington Racecourse to take part in the widely popular horse race. More than moneymaking, betting on horses became a traditional part of the day with Calcutta’s and sweeps a major part of the day. In 1865, the Cup day was declared a half-day holiday in Victoria and later in 1877, the whole day was declared as a holiday facilitating thousands of people to gather at the racecourse on the day of the event.

In 1875, Victoria racing club adopting the four-day format held the Cup day on the first Tuesday of November. This has become a standard format for horse race and this is the first step for the carnival that we are enjoying today. Year after year, the Cup day was growing into a major event attracting more and more people. It is worthy to say that the Melbourne cup has created frenzy within the nation as well as across the globe.

Initially, the horses raced for 2 miles, which is roughly about 3218 meters, and this was changed to 3200 meters to adhere to the metric system. A few records of the past were changed to suit the new system so that the world records remain valid even after a change in the distance raced. Kingston Rule recorded the best timing in the 1990-Cup Day, when he clocked 3:16:3. This magnificent record remains unbroken even today. People often confuse him with Kingston Town who was a sparkling champion of the eighties. The trophy that was awarded for the winner underwent many changes until the Melbourne cup was finalized. Though the race has been held since 1861 every year, introduction of handing over trophy to the winner happened only in 1865. The trophy is a miniature horse and rider atop a silver bowl with decorative handles. In 1876, the first gold cup was awarded to the winner. Trophy for the winner was made in Victoria and this continues as a custom even today. In 1888, the trophy again reverted to silver and the design was changed to three silver horses on a silver base. The next year, a funny trophy with a silver tea and coffee service design, was awarded.

Irrespective of the trophy awarded, the winners enjoyed the race and the trophy. It was in 1899, a plaque with an embossing of a silver horse is presented to the winner. From 1915 to 1918, a large rose bowl was awarded to the winner. It was in 1919, the Melbourne Cup was introduced, and after that, the race was called by the name of the cup. From 1922-1960 the value of the trophy changed from ?200 to ?750. In 1973, a cup worth $3000 was presented and the worth of the trophy increased to $9000 in just five years. The value of the trophy kept on increasing from $23,000 in 1984 to $60,000 in 2001. The 2006 trophy was valued at $75,000. In 1861, the prize money was just $1420 and in 2006, this increased to a whooping $5 million. The latest Melbourne cup is made up of 34 pieces of hand-beaten 18-carat gold. This precious trophy is given to the winner who will be on the racecourse for just 3 minutes competing with other horses.

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Looking for more on the Melbourne Cup Form or Melb Cup Tips then get a hold of our Melbourne Cup Guide

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