2017 The Greatest 2 Minutes in Sport- The Melbourne Cup

For the connections of the 23 runners in the 2017 Melbourne Cup, the night of Monday 6th November would have somewhat been a nervous and possibly restless one. Owners would potentially have a restless night wondering how their horse will go, trainers would have been looking over the horse to make sure that before they were bedded for the night that all is well and the jockey would have also been in for an early night but not before going over any last-minute replays of competition and plans of how they intend to ride in the most iconic race in Australia’s racing history.

Today 7th November 2017, marks the running of the 157th Melbourne Cup, this is our race that STOPS the nation as millions of eyes around the world watch our racing mecca- Flemington Race Course come alive.

The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861 and only had a field of 17 runners, which then saw the Sydney trained horse Archer (William Tell x Maid of the Oaks) take the honours in the inaugural running of the cup, winning a much smaller prize than what is on offer today. Archer then won the race again in 1862 (only one of few horses to have won the race twice).

Horse Racing is enjoyed by millions around the world and is a sport that has many iconic races around the world that many dream of winning. Such races include: The USA Triple Crown- Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes (the concept of The Everest) and the Belmont Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, Royal Ascot Carnival- Diamond Jubilee, Queen Anne Stakes, Dubai World Cup and the Grand National just to name a few. Our very own Melbourne Cup is also included on this list, each year we see more and more international horses entered in our greatest race in the hopes of taking home the trophy and being able to claim the title.

While all the above races are prestigious in their own nations, the Melbourne Cup is a unique race in the fact it is the ONLY race in the world that literally STOPS a nation. England does not stop when the Royal Ascot carnival is on, America does not stand still when any of the triple crown races are running, France does not stop however in Australia at 3pm on the first Tuesday of November we all stand still and wait for those gates to crash open, we roar in the millions and watch the greatest 2 minutes in sport anywhere in the world!

Here is a special and early edition of Winning Wednesday highlighting the great race and some historic information that you may or may not have known.

History of the great race

The Melbourne Cup is a race that is enriched with a lot of history since its inauguration in 1861. It is a race that will forever be part of Australian culture and you don’t need to be a citizen to know just how important this race is to us and how much we love it. Here are some of the fun facts that make up the history of our iconic event.

1863- Smallest field ever of only 7 runners contested the race.

1869– The four-day spring carnival program was introduced.

1876– The youngest jockey to ever win the Melbourne Cup was Peter St. Albans who rode filly Briseis (Tim Whiffler x Musidora) – he was only 13.

1882– First bookmakers were licenced at Flemington.

1890– Largest field ever of 39 runners, won by Carbine (Toxophilite x Mersey) carrying 66 kgs.

1915– The first female owner won the race, Mrs E.A. Widdis with Patrobas

1930Phar Lap wins the Melbourne Cup

1958– First year the Melbourne Cup starters were in barriers

1962– Fashions on the field was introduced

1987– First female jockey to ride in the race was Maree Lyndon

2001– Sheila Laxon became the first female trainer to win the cup

2003– First Australian Female Jockey to ride was Clare Lindop

2005– Makybe Diva is the first horse to win the race 3 years in a row

Fun Fact

The cup was not always run on the first Tuesday in November. It was first run on Thursday but then changed in 1875. During World War II in 1942, 1943 and 1944 it was run on a Saturday.

How old are the horses in the race and what weight do they carry?

The Melbourne Cup is a race that is open to fillies & mares (girls) and colts & geldings (boys) aged 3 years and onwards. The difference in the weight carried by the horses is determined by the Victorian Racing Club (VRC) and are weighted accordingly to age, gender and races won. The whole idea being to give every runner an equal chance.

How are the weights decided?

As the Cup is a handicap race, this means that horses are weighted accordingly to their age and are allocated as below:

3-year-old fillies – 48kgs.

3-year-old colts & geldings -50kgs.

4-year-old mares – 56kgs.

4-year-old stallions and geldings- 58kgs.

5-year-old and above mares – 57.5kgs.

5-year-old and above stallions and geldings -59.5kgs.

How are horses nominated and accepted into the Cup Field?

Entries for the yearly Melbourne Cup are closed in the first week of August with an initial fee of $600 per horse. As the years go on the number of horses that are nominated is usually in excess of 300 but by the time the race comes around is short listed down to the maximum of 24 (this number is for safety of all horses and jockeys in the race). Once first nominations are released and weights allocated, the owner must declare that the horse is a runner on four separate occasions also paying the appropriate fee:

1st Acceptance- $960

2nd Acceptance- $1,450

3rd Acceptance- $2,420

4th Acceptance (paid on the Saturday before the cup) – $45,375

Once all acceptances are paid, the directors then have the task of balloting the runners that are in the race and take into consideration a number of factors including prize money earned in the past 24 months, wins or placings in lead up races and the allocated handicap weight. With all of these factors in mind the field is reduced to the 24 chosen horses.

However, should a horse win particular races on the annual racing calendar then they are given automatic entry into the race and therefore, do not require balloting. These races include:

  • Caulfield Cup
  • Cox Plate
  • Lexus Stakes (run on the Saturday before the cup)
  • The Bart Cummings (held on Turnbull Stakes day)
  • Geelong Cup
  • Emirates Stakes

The Trophy

Like any major race not only in Australia but the world, usually when there is massive prize money on offer, it is accompanied by an amazing trophy to compliment. There are some really eye-catching trophies in the world, especially the Dubai World Cup. However, ask any trainer/owner or jockey in the world the one trophy they want to win and it is our beloved Melbourne Cup- to some it is considered to be a simply trophy while to others it is far more than just a cup.

The trophy is made from 18 carat gold and has not one but three handles, this piece of gold ware is very much an Australian icon as is the boomerang. The cup was initially designed by Mr. James Steeth in 1919 and was then commissioned by the VRC to design a trophy that would keep in line with the prestige of the race. It is manufactured by Drummonds Jewellers and is now made by son of James- Maurice and now in the hands of his trusty assistant to carry on the tradition.

In 1980, the making of the cup was passed on to Hardy Brothers Jewellers however, the same process is still followed. The trophy itself is made from 44 pieces of gold metal and is hand beaten over 250 hours.

Just like the race, the trophy has its own history time line, here are some of the interesting facts about the evolution of the most iconic cup in the world.

1861– No trophy was presented instead it was a gold watch.

1876– First gold cup trophy was manufactured in Victoria with one side depicting a picture of a horse race and a grandstand in the background. On the other side the words “Melbourne Cup 1876”

1877– 1886- no trophy was presented.

1914– Last year the cup was made in England. It was a long base with a horse on each end facing out and a chalice cup in the center

1916– First gold cup was presented.

1973– Smaller replica trophies presented to the winning trainer and jockey.

2001– The trophy went from being 9ct gold to 18ct gold and valued at $80,000.

2005– The breeder of the winner is also now presented with a half-sized cup.

2008– The value of the trophy increases to $125,000 reflecting the price of gold. Trainer, Jockey, Strapper and Breeder trophies bring the total of winning trophies to $150,000

To read more on the history of the cup click here

Prize Money Break Down

This is the world’s richest handicap race and has a total prize pool of $6.2 million dollars, hence why the interest comes from all over the globe. So how is the prize money broken down for the winners and the runners?

1st– $3.6 million and an additional $150,000 worth of trophies for Trainer, Jockey, Strapper and Breeder

2nd– $900,000

3rd– $450,000

4th– $250,000

5th– $175,000

6th to 10th– $125,000

How much does the Trainer & Jockey receive?

The winning Trainer is entitled to 10% of prize money won on any race (not just the cup), in relation to the cup this equates to $320,000.

The Jockey is entitled to 5% which equates to $180,000 for around 2 minutes racing the horse and being the first past the post.

The owners then receive the rest to split however they wish, this is a nice kitty of $3,060,000 for simply getting a horse good enough to win the cup and cheering it home.

The 2017 Melbourne Cup Field

Hopefully by now you have decided who you are placing your money on or have a rough idea of who the horses are so that when you participate in your office sweepstakes you will know who to cheer for, if not here is the final field for the cup.

Regardless of where you are whether that be at work, at a race track around the country (for the lucky ones at Flemington) or simply watching from the nearest TAB or home, no doubt this will be yet another thrilling race as we crown our new Melbourne Cup winner!


Thoroughbred Events Australia wishes all the connections the very best and May the best horse win!

Article by Kylie Johnson

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