It’s more that just a horse race – it’s ‘the’ race that stops our nation in their own tracks, every year on the first Tuesday of November. The Melbourne Cup is a prestigious annual event that began in 1861, and over the 160+ years since its foundation has become a piece of integral identity in Australian culture. It’s a day where people from all walks of life come together to celebrate not just horse racing and the incredible accomplishments of those that have made it to this level, but also the fashion, festivities, and rich history the cup holds.
The Early Years
The brainchild of Frederick Standish, the Victoria Turf Club’s secretary, and industrialist Robert Bagot. They dreamt of a race that would attract the very best horses from Australia and beyond. The inaugural Melbourne Cup took place at Flemington Racecourse, drawing a modest crowd and featuring a field of 17 horses. ‘Archer’, a NSW horse was the first ever winner!
In the following decades, the Melbourne Cup grew in statute and popularity, and continued to develop the races and its rules. Throughout its history, the Melbourne Cup has seen numerous memorable moments and legendary horses. Phar Lap, the iconic New Zealand-bred thoroughbred, won the Cup in 1930, capturing the nation during the difficult times of the Great Depression. Makybe Diva made history again by winning three consecutive Melbourne Cups from 2003 – 2005, an unprecedented achievement that secured her a place in racing history.
Not Without Controversy…
Throughout its long history, the Melbourne Cup has not been immune to controversies. Concerns raised about animal welfare, especially in recent years, have led to a heightened focus on the treatment and well-being of the horses. The racing industry has implemented reforms and strategies to address these concerns – improving regulations and initiatives to ensure the upmost safety and care of racehorses involved.
Apart from the actual horse race itself, the Melbourne Cup has also become synonymous with fashion and style. Attendees either race side, or watching across the country, dress their best, choose a stand-out fascinator, and try their luck at fashions on the field. It’s a chance to show your personality and get into the Cup festivities of race day once a year.
If you aren’t located close enough to attend the big day in person – you are sure to find a Melbourne Cup event close by! Venues across Australia replicate the excitement and fun of Flemington in the spring, putting on their own long-lunches, fashion competitions, and sweeps.
How will you choose to spend race-day? It’s a day when the nation collectively holds its breath, cheering for the horses and celebrating the excitement that has made this event what it is today.
Don’t have plans yet for your Melbourne Cup festivities? Join us at Mingara! We look forward to seeing you on race day!