The Melbourne Cup

History of The Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is the most famous horse race in Australia and has developed into a truly international event in recent times. It is an all-aged event over 3,200 metres (around 2 miles) and is the most valuable staying event in the world. The race is held on the first Tuesday in November on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne and was first staged in 1861. It is held in the same regard by the nation as the Grand National or Epsom Derby in Britain and is marketed as “the race that stops a nation”.

Archer won the first ever running of the Melbourne Cup and it soon caught the imagination of the public. Victoria was going through the gold rush at that time and thousands of people had travelled to Melbourne, Bendigo and Ballarat in the hope of making their fortune. Flemington became popular and the racecourse was developed to cope with the demands of the Melbourne Cup carnival. There were picnic parties, sideshows, celebrations and it gradually became an important event on the fashion calendar. Socialites, politicians and the nation’s rich and famous attended the Cup and that tradition still holds good today. Within fifteen years of the inaugural Cup race, the attendance had risen from 4,000 to a staggering 100,000 as Melbourne continued to grow during and after the gold rush.

The history of the race is littered with stories of scandal, controversy, triumph and tragedy. Some of the most famous winners have been Carbine (1890), Phar Lap (1930), Peter Pan (1932 and 1934), Rain Lover (1968 & 1969), Kiwi (1983), Vintage Crop (1993) and Makybe Diva (2003, 2004 & 2005). Makybe Diva established herself as a national heroine when becoming the first mare to win the race twice and then going on to complete a remarkable hat-trick, the only horse ever to win the race three times. An attendance of over 106,000 people was there to see history being made in 2005. By far the most successful trainer in the Melbourne Cup is Bart Cummings who has trained a staggering twelve winners.

In recent years, the European challenge has increased in both quantity and quality. What was initially regarded as a rich handicap race, now requires a horse of group class to even make it into the final line up. Significant improvements in travelling arrangements have made the race a more viable proposition for horses from Europe and Ireland and France have already enjoyed significant success.

Dermot Weld trained Vintage Crop to win the 1993 Melbourne Cup and repeated the achievement with Media Puzzle in 2002. The French have trained the last two winners with Americain (2010) and Dunaden (2011), both of which are entered for the 2012 renewal. As yet, no English-trained runner has prevailed although Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani has twice gone close with Purple Moon and Bauer both finishing second. Even Skeikh Mohammed’s powerful Godolphin operation has so far failed to lift the prize and it remains a race that they are determined to target every season.

The 2006 Melbourne Cup produced an astonishing 1-2 for Japan as Delta Blues beat Pop Rock by a nose. Neither horse was permitted to take part the following season due to an outbreak of equine influenza in Australia. Viewed won the race in 2008 for legendary “Cups King” Bart Cummings, providing him with his twelfth victory.

Betting on the Melbourne Cup

Obviously the betting market for the Melbourne Cup is huge. The Australian Futures market on the Melbourne Cup starts as soon as they pass the post the previous season. The market obviously fluctuates wildly during the course of the season as major contenders lose their form or drop out through injury but it settles down in October. The biggest trial for the Melbourne Cup is the Caulfield Cup, held three weeks earlier. This race always has a big effect on deciding the likely market leaders for Flemington.

2012 Preview

As in many previous seasons, the Caulfield Cup will have a big impact on the Melbourne Cup this year. A whole host of Flemington entries will be running in that race including the last two Melbourne winners, Americain and Dunaden. The latter was campaigned over a mile and a half in Europe this summer but trainer Mikel Delzangles decided to send the horse back up in distance to attempt back-to-back triumphs. He is likely to be re-opposed by last year’s gallant runner-up Red Cadeaux who came within a nose of breaking the hoodoo for English-trained runners. Ed Dunlop has deliberately left the horse fresh since the summer and is expecting a big run.

French runners are always to be respected and they unleashed another potential winner in Shahwardi to win in Australia recently. He has proven stamina and a useful turn of foot and his price has tumbled in recent days. Luca Cumani has two live prospects in the progressive Mount Athos and My Quest For Peace but John Gosden’s Gatewood must win his last remaining trial race if he is to get a place in the starting list.

The home team is headed by Caulfield Cup favourite Glencadam Gold and the consistent Green Moon but they are wary of an exceptionally strong European challenge this year.

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