Melbourne Cup Day 2022: History, Significance and Celebrations

Melbourne Cup Day is annually held on every first Tuesday of November at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia which means this year it falls on 1st November. 

This day is a state holiday in the state of Victoria so the schools and businesses remains closed on this day so that most people can participate in it. About 100,000 people flock to Flemington, but the 3,200-meter turf race is televised live to about 650 million people around the world.

This event is the biggest horse racing event in the country of Australia and it is also one of the biggest horse racing event in our world and it is also a part of a weeklong Melbourne Carnival of festivities and fashion. 

Event Melbourne Cup Day
Date November 1, 2022
Day Tuesday
Significance The day mark the observation of biggest horse racing event in the country of Australia
Observed by Australia

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Melbourne Cup Day History: 

When the Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861, there were two organising committees controlling horse racing in Victoria, the Victorian Turf Club (1852) and the Victorian Jockeys Club (1857). The Melbourne Cup was introduced in 1861 by the Victorian Turf Club to trump the success of Victorian Jockey Club races such as the Two Thousand Guineas. As a handicap race, the Melbourne Cup introduced a level of speculation that the club hoped would attract more entries, and therefore higher prize money. The two competing organisations disbanded in 1864, before merging to form the Victorian Racing Club, which has controlled racing in Victoria and the Melbourne Cup ever since.

The winner of the 1861 Melbourne Cup was awarded a gold watch, and for the next two years a cash purse was the major prize. A trophy was first awarded in 1865. The owner of the winning horse Tory Boy, Mr Marshall, is claimed to have described the English-made trophy as a monstrosity. He immediately sold it to the Flemington Hunt Club, which rebranded it as the trophy for its annual cup. This trophy therefore is now inscribed as the Flemington Hunt Club Cup awarded to the 1873 winner, Babbler. This trophy was sold in the 1970s by Christies and is now owned by wine merchant Wolf Blass.

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The 1866 Melbourne Cup is the earliest known Melbourne Cup that remains in its original state. It was made in London in 1865 by Daniel and Charles Houle and imported to Australia by Walsh Brothers Jewellers, who ordered it on behalf of the Victorian Racing Club. Silver-gilt chased with gold leaf, the cup is 75.5 centimetres high and reflects the Renaissance revival style seen in England around the middle of the 19th century. The protruding horse’s heads closely resemble those featured on the 1867 Queen’s Plate, made by Melbourne silversmith William Edwards, and give weight to the argument that the 1867 Queen’s Plate was made with the intent of it being presented as a Melbourne Cup.

Although the Melbourne Cup today is well-known in Australia for being run on the first Tuesday in November, this hasn’t always been the case. The 1866 Melbourne Cup race was run on a Thursday, and in 1867 the Cup was run in October. It wasn’t until 1875 that the race was run on the first Tuesday of November. Although the three-handled loving cup is widely recognised as the traditional cup design, this has only been the case since 1919. Before then the cups came in a variety of styles, with each year having a completely original design. Infact for some years trophy wasn’t even awarded especially in the initial stages of the tournament. 

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Melbourne Cup Day Significance: 

Since 1861, the Melbourne Cup has been an official race day and, since 1877, a public holiday in the state of Victoria. Around the nation, most of the population stops to bet on the race and watch it on TV. The Melbourne Cup, the race that ‘stops a nation’, runs over 3,200 metres at Flemington Racecourse and is for no more than 24 horses that are over three years old. On the day it’s difficult to know if the public holiday is about the horse race or if it’s about the hats and fashion. High society mixes with everyone else and the full-day event has also become known as an urban fashion parade.

The race is a quality handicap for horses three years old and over, run over a distance of 3200 metres, on the first Tuesday in November at Flemington Racecourse. The minimum handicap weight is 50 kg. There is no maximum weight, but the top allocated weight must not be less than 57 kg. The weight allocated to each horse is declared by the VRC Handicapper in early September. The Melbourne Cup race is a handicap contest in which the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a nominated figure. Older horses carry more weight than younger ones and weights are adjusted further according to the horse’s previous results. 

‘Fashions on the Field’ is a major focus of the day, with substantial prizes awarded for the best-dressed man and woman. The requirement for elegant hats, and more recently the alternative of a fascinator, almost single-handedly keeps Melbourne’s milliners in business. Flowers, especially roses are an important component of the week’s racing at Flemington. The racecourse has around 12,000 roses within its large expanse. Over 200 varieties of the fragrant flower are nurtured by a team of up to 12 gardeners.

Although only Victoria takes the day off, around the country most businesses stop for the 3pm for the race and share ‘office sweepstakes’, champagne and lunch. Many people who don’t normally bet, get into the spirit of the day and buy a two-dollar office sweepstakes ticket on a random horse. In towns and cities across Australia, restaurants are filled with social and family groups taking the opportunity to celebrate the culture of the nation while taking a break from their daily activities. On the track, tension is high between owners, trainers, jockeys and punters. Many foreign horses now enter the race. Prize money is over 6-million dollars with the first ten past the post receiving winnings. 

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Melbourne Cup Day Celebrations: 

The main racing event takes place at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria. More than 100,000 people usually attend Flemington Racecourse every year. Local races are held throughout the country on this day and when the main race of the day occurs at the Flemington Racecourse it is televised on screens at race tracks across Australia. The race is televised live to an audience of about 650 million people worldwide. Many people stop what they are doing shortly before 3pm on Melbourne Cup Day to watch or listen to the main race either via television, live-streaming, radio, etc. 

At the races, people likes to dress up with  many women and men wearing their best or most colorful hats and dresses, with some even participating in fashion parades on the field. Marquees are set up for VIP guests, including local, national and international celebrities who attend this festive event. Flemington Racecourse also offers a range of restaurants for everything from a gourmet hamburger to upscale buffets to exclusive entertainment packages that get you started with canapés on arrival. 

Many offices across Australia stop work closer to the time of the main race to celebrate the event. Activities include office parties that feature hat and dress competitions, staff lunches at restaurants and afternoon teas with a television being available so workers can watch the main race. Bets are made on this day, even those who usually do not bet try their luck with a small wager or entry into a sweep, which is a lottery in which each ticket holder is matched with a randomly drawn horse.

Most Searched FAQs on Melbourne Cup Day: 

1. When is Melbourne Cup Day celebrated? 

Melbourne Cup Day is annually celebrated on every first Tuesday of November in Australia. 

2. Where is Melbourne Cup Day celebrated? 

Melbourne Cup Day annually takes place at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 

3. Is Melbourne Cup Day a public holiday? 

Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday across all of Victoria unless alternate local holiday has been arranged by non-metro council.

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