Melbourne Cup Betting

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A single Tuesday in November represents the most important day of the Australian horse racing season. It is so important, in fact, that much of the nation’s labour force takes off work that day to watch the Thoroughbreds run at Flemington, home of the Victoria Race Club. Valued at AUD$125,000 to AUD$150,000, the top prize is an 18-carat gold trophy that weighs four kilograms, mounted on a blackwood base. The occasion is the Melbourne Cup, a tradition with a 150-year history.

Some 4,000 spectators gathered to see the very first Melbourne Cup in 1861. It was won by a horse named Archer, ridden by John Cutts and trained by Etienne De Mestre. The prize back then was a gold watch and a purse worth £930. In 1877, race day was declared a public holiday across Victoria, and by 1880, the Melbourne Cup was drawing crowds as large as 100,000.

Over the years a few changes have been introduced. The trophy’s original “three-handled loving cup” design was created in 1919, live radio commentary of the race started in 1925, a metric running of 3,200 metres replaced the old two-mile course in 1972, and a foreign horse took the prize for the first time in 1993—Dublin’s own Vintage Crop.

Famous names associated with the Melbourne Cup include jockeys Bart Cummings, who rode Light Fingers to victory in 1965 before going on to win 12 Cups, and Glen Boss, the first rider to claim three consecutive Cups in 2003~2005. Among revered mounts, Archer, Peter Pan, Rain Lover, and Think Big all won twice, while Makybe Diva took three Cups. And a horse named Delta Blues put Japan in the winner’s circle in 2006.

Along the way, the one-day affair grew into a four-day event, now known as the Melbourne Cup Carnival. It is noted for millinery, stylish dress designs, floral displays, and its prestigious “Fashions on the Field” competition. There is plenty of dining and entertaining, plus a charity fundraiser called “Pin & Win,” with proceeds going to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre Appeal.

Since 2004, the Melbourne Cup has had a title sponsor. The Victoria Racing Club signed a seven-year partnership deal with Emirates, the Dubai airline, as the principal sponsor of the race. This resulted in an increase in the prize money to a record AUD$5 million in 2005, which has gradually been increased to AUD$6 million as of the 2010 running.

Some other changes made for the 150th anniversary were the conversion of the old Racecourse Manager’s building into the new Flemington Visitors’ Information Centre and the creation of a racing “Walk of Fame” with bluestone and brass pavers recognising every Melbourne Cup winner since 1861. Australia Post got into the spirit of celebration, too, by issuing a series of stamps, and the Royal Australian Mint released a special commemorative coin.

The Emirates Melbourne Cup is a handicap open to Thoroughbreds aged three years old and over. The minimum handicap weight is 49 kilograms, with no maximum. As a flat race, it is run on turf with a left-hand turn. Out of some 300~400 horses nominated each year, no more than 24 are selected to start.

Wagering on the Melbourne Cup is especially heavy in Australia, of course, but it has also attracted a following worldwide. Three times it its history, horses at 100-to-1 odds have brought home the trophy, but none more recently that 1940. The Victoria Racing Club has estimated that over AUD$140 million is bet throughout Australia on the Emirates Melbourne Cup on the Tote in all forms of bets. Most of the wagers are for Win and Place, accounting for about 60% of the total. Other popular betting types are the Quinella (first two runners in any order) and Trifecta (first three horses in order).

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