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Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is billed as “The Race that Stops a Nation”. This is by far the most popular race in Australia, and is covered both at Australian bookmakers and bookies worldwide. This four day festival culminates with the richest 2 mile race in the world. This brutally long race is grueling and only the best horses can hope to win.

History of the Melbourne Cup

The first racing of the Melbourne Cup was in 1861. Seventeen horses contested for the prize of 710 gold sovereigns and a gold watch. It was in 1865 that the day was recognized as a holiday. Businesses and banks closed at lunchtime, however it was not until 1873 that the day was declared by the government to be a bank and civil servant holiday. This catapulted the popularity of this legendary race. One of the most popular horses to have won the Melbourne Cup is Makybe Diva, who is the only horse to have ever won this race three successive years.

About the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is the world’s richest 2 mile race. However, the race is not exactly 2 miles long. In 1970 Australia adopted the metric system, and reduced the race from 3,218 meters to 3,200 meters. This is a turf race, and horses 3 years old and over are eligible to race. However, due to the great popularity of this race there is a balloting system to verify which horses qualify to race. Every year they have around 400 horses nominated to run, but the race coordinators must whittle this down to the maximum 24 horse field. It is a long process for horses to be selected to run the Melbourne Cup, and an even more intensive process for the handicappers to decide exactly how much weight each horse will carry. As this horse is internationally popular, horses must also go through a quarantine period, and in the past horses have been lost due to tragedies at sea. This does not stop horse race betting, however, as Australia is one of the few countries who allow bookmakers to offer the track’s starting price odds. Thanks to legalized bookmakers, the ever popular Tote board, and the municipal holiday, the Melbourne Cup boasts a huge number in wagers. In 2000 it is estimated that 80% of Australian adults placed a wager on this race. This extraordinarily popular race will have people place wagers who may not wager on any other race during the year.

The Trophy

The Melbourne Cup’s trophy has changed many times over the years this race has been won. In the very beginning the trophy was not even a cup! The trophy awarded to the winning horse has changed many times, from a watch, to various types and styles of cups, to a platter, war bonds, and there were even a number of years that no trophy was presented. The modern trophy is a replica of a past trophy. It is a gold cup hammered by hand, and is valued at over $150,000. This modern cup is made of 34 hand-beaten 18 carat gold. This is trophy is property of the winning owner, and a new cup is produced every year for the occasion. Minature replicas are also awarded to the trainer, and jockey. A small trophy is also given to the horse’s groomer.

The Purse

The total purse for the Melbourne Cup in 2010 was $6 million. Money is paid out to up to 10th place. The winner takes home a very impressive $3.3 million. This money is delegated out carefully, the horse’s owner receives 85% of the prize money, the trainer gets 10%, and the jockey receives 5%.

One more unique thing about the Melbourne Cup is the bonus money available. If the winning horse of September’s Irish St. Leger race also wins the Melbourne Cup there is $500,000 awarded to the owner of the horse.