Running of the first Melbourne Cup

November 06, 2018

On 7 November 1861, the first Melbourne Cup was run and won by racehorse, “Archer” – the beginnings of “the race that stops a nation”, an iconic Aussie institution and world-renowned sporting event.

The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s best known, participated in and loved horse race – and the richest “two mile” handicap in the world (now over $7 million in prize money). The Cup is a thoroughbred race for three-year-olds and over. It is run at Flemington Racecourse – cradled by the Maribyrnong River and just 6 kms from Melbourne CBD – over a distance of 3,200 metres (essentially two miles).

The race is attended by approximately 100,000 enthusiasts and is the highlight of the Melbourne Cup Carnival week (four race meetings in early November, all conducted by the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington) which is, in turn, the highlight of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival (October and November, after the AFL Grand Final, also in Melbourne).

Only one horse has been able to win the race three times – Makybe Diva (2003-05) - elevating the horse to an echelon occupied by the legendary Australian race horse, 1930 Cup winner Phar Lap. Fastest race in the history of the Cup (ie record winning time) was 3 minutes, 16 and a half seconds, by Kingston Rule in 1990. Famous Aussie horse trainer, the late Bart Cummings (aka the Cups King), won the race 12 times – more than double any other trainer.

Some significant events coincide with Melbourne Cup Day, including Fashions on the Field - see the More Information section below.

Celebrate the birth of the race that now stops our nation (on the first Tuesday in November at 3pm AEDT) by:

  • getting into the spirit of this year’s Melbourne Cup, along with a classy outfit and hat, or stylish frock and fascinator
  • viewing this 150th anniversary tribute to the Cup (2010)
  • watching your favourite horse racing movie
  • taking these quizzes on the Cup and its history
  • organising the office sweep for the day
  • reading further about the Melbourne Cup,
  • for share market jockeys, keeping one eye on the Reserve Bank's interest rates decision, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, office colleagues, patriotic Aussies, equine enthusiasts and those that just enjoy a tipple and a flutter on Cup Day.

More Information

The year 1875 was the first time the race was held on the first Tuesday in November – which then became the tradition (barring the odd exception, eg during WWII when it was run on Saturdays). In 1877 Melbourne Cup Day was gazetted as a Victorian public holiday and has remained so, in most areas of Victoria, ever since.

The year 1962 was the first time “Fashions on the Field” was held at the Cup Carnival – and in 1965, the mini-skirt (worn by Jean Shrimpton) made its first appearance.

The first Tuesday of November coincides with the Reserve Bank of Australia's calendar of making announcements on interest rates on the first Tuesday of each month. The Reserve Bank had, since 2011, declined to steal the thunder of Melbourne Cup Day by leaving interest rates on hold for many successive years.

Politics and the Melbourne Cup collided in 1977 when then Governor-General, Sir John Kerr - a month before his departure from office - addressed an unwelcoming crowd whose boos he described as 'static'. Kerr had, in 1975, controversially sacked the Whitlam Labor government:


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