History of the Melbourne Cup

The Melbourne Cup is Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race. Billed as The race that stops a nation, it is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3,200 metres. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious “two-mile” handicap in the world. The event is held on the first Tuesday in November by the Victoria Racing Club, on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. This day was traditionally only a public holiday within metropolitan Melbourne, but is now also observed as a holiday in the entire state of Victoria, and even the ACT.

The race was originally held over two miles (about 3,218 metres) but following preparation for Australia's adoption of the metric system in the 1970s, the current race distance of 3,200 metres was established in 1972. This reduced the distance by 61ft 6in, and Rain Lover's 1968 race record of 3min.19.1sec was accordingly adjusted to 3min.17.9sec. The present record holder is the 1990 winner Kingston Rule with a time of 3min 16.3sec.

Seventeen horses contested the first Melbourne Cup in 1861, racing for £170 cash and a gold watch. It has been said that the winner, Archer, walked 800km to the course from Nowra, New South Wales, but it is possible he travelled by ship. A crowd of 4,000 watched the race, although it has been suggested this was less than expected because of news reaching Melbourne of the death of explorers Burke and Wills.

Archer won again the following year, but because owner Etienne de Mestre's nomination form arrived late the next year, Archer was unable to contest a third cup. Many sympathetic owners boycotted the race which started with only seven horses, the smallest number in the history of the Cup. Archer's jockey was an Aboriginal named J. Cutts.

On 7 November 1876 the running of the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November commenced with the three-year-old filly, Briseis, creating a record that is never likely to be equalled, winning the VRC Derby, the Melbourne Cup and the VRC Oaks in the space of six days. She was ridden in the Cup by thirteen year old Peter St Albans

The first Tuesday in November, Melbourne Cup Day, was officially gazetted a full public holiday in 1877.

Phar Lap, the most famous horse in the world of his day, won the 1930 Melbourne Cup. He also competed in 1929 and 1931, but came 3rd and 8th respectively.

The first Aboriginal jockey to win the Melbourne Cup was not Frank Reys who rode Gala Supreme to victory in 1973, it was J. Cutts who won the first and second Melbourne Cups riding Archer in 1861 and 1862. The second Aboriginal jockey to win was Peter St. Albans riding Briseis in 1876.
The race has undergone several alterations over the past 10 years, the most visible being the arrival of many foreign-trained horses to contest the race in the last decade. Most have failed to cope with the conditions; the three successful “foreign raids” include two by Irish trainer Dermot K. Weld successful in 1993 and 2002, and one in 2006 by Katsumi Yoshida of Japan's renowned Yoshida racing and breeding family. The attraction for foreigners to compete was, primarily, the low-profile change to the new “quality handicap” weighting system.

The 1910 Melbourne Cup was won by Comedy King, the first foreign bred horse to do so. Subsequent foreign bred horses to win Cup were Backwood 1924; Belldale Ball 1980; At Talaq 1986; Kingston Rule 1990; Vintage Crop 1993; Jeune 1994; Media Puzzle 2002; Makybe Diva 2003, 2004, 2005

The 1938 Melbourne Cup was won by trainer Mrs. Allan McDonald who conditioned Catalogue. However, at the time women were not allowed to compete and as such her husband's name was officially recorded as the winning trainer. The 2001 edition was won by New Zealand mare Ethereal, trained by Sheila Laxon, the first woman to formally train a Melbourne Cup winner. She also won the Caulfield Cup, a 2,400 metre race also held in Melbourne, and therefore has won the “Cups Double”.
In 2004 Makybe Diva became the first mare to win two cups, and also the first horse to win with different trainers, after David Hall moved to Hong Kong and transferred her to the Lee Freedman stables.

The 2005 Melbourne Cup was held before a crowd of 106,479. Makybe Diva made history by becoming the only horse to win the race three times. Trainer Lee Freedman said after the race, “Go and find the youngest child on the course, because that's the only person here who will have a chance of seeing this happen again in their lifetime.”

The 2006 Melbourne Cup was won by the Japanese horse, Delta Blues. Delta Blues won by a nose over a second Japanese horse, Pop Rock. The major sponsor for the 2006 Melbourne Cup was Emirates Airline.

Due to the 2007 Australian Equine influenza outbreak, believed to have been started by a horse brought into Australia from Japan, neither Delta Blues nor Pop Rock participated in the 2007 Melbourne Cup. Both horses are stabled in Japan. Corowa, NSW trained ” Leica Falcon ” was also not be permitted to race in Victoria, despite being close to the Victorian border . Leica Falcon was ordained as the new staying star of Australian racing in 2005 when he ran fourth in both the Caulfield Cup and in Makybe Diva's famous third Melbourne Cup victory. But serious leg injuries saw the horse not race for another 20 months.