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The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is the most well attended horse race in Australia with attendances well over 100,000. The race is run in the first week of November with a maximum field of 24 runners over a distance of 3200m on grass, and is one of the richest races in the world, with prize money of 6.2 million Australian dollars.

It all started in 1861 when the Victorian Racing Club held a four day spring racing carnival at the Flemmington racecourse in Melbourne, offering a prize purse of 710 gold sovereigns and a hand beaten gold watch. It seems as in all tales of the horse racing industry there are stories of misadventure and folklore tales that make for interesting reading. The winner of this first event was a horse called Archer who was an ‘import’ from Sydney who had high odds. Before the race even started one of the horses bolted, three of the field of seventeen fell during the race and Archer went on to beat the favourite by six lengths causing a heightened interstate rivalry. Today this prestigious race attracts entrants from all over the world and is a declared public holiday in Australia.

The youngest jockey to have won this race was 12 year old Peter St. Albans,(he was 8 days short of his 13th birthday) on Breisis, who has become a name in the annals of Australian racing as the only horse to have won The VRC Derby, The Melbourne Cup and the VRC Oaks in a year. Breisis did it in a six day period. Both horse and jockey became household names to Australian race goers.

The Melbourne Cup is often referred to as ‘the race that stops a nation’ because of its’ huge following throughout its history and continues to grow internationally as it now has a huge following in neighbouring New Zealand.

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