The history of the Melbourne cup goes back all the way to 1861.
When it comes to horse racing, Australia has a tradition that goes back a hundred years and continues to this very day.
The Melbourne Cup is known as the race that stops a nation, and it is very close to true!
Every year, Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race brings vast crowds of spectators to the Flemington Racecourse and millions watch from home.
In Melbourne, the day is even declared a public holiday!
History of the Melbourne Cup : The First Melbourne Cup
The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861, with 17 horses competing.
The prize was £170, and rather than a cup, the winner received a hand-beaten gold watch.
The crowd that first year was around about 4,000 people and the winner was a Walking Horse from New South Wales known as Archer. As legend has it, Archer walked the 800 kilometers between Nowra (NSw) and Melbourne before the race. He would go on to win the Melbourne cup again in 1862, but due to a paperwork mishap was unable to compete in 1863. This led to a boycott of the race by other owners and the race was run with only 7 starters, the lowest attendance in history.
History of the Melbourne Cup : Phar Lap
Though there were many notable racers that have won the Melbourne Cup, perhaps the most well known was Phar Lap, an imported chestnut gelding born in 1926. While he only won the Melbourne Cup once, he went on to a great deal of fame as Australia's most famous thoroughbred racer. In his life, he won 37 of the 51 races in which he was entered, and in 1930 and 1931, he won 14 races in a row. Bookies would give very short odds on him, when they were willing to take bets on the gelding at all. Like Archer back in the 19th century, and Makybe Diva, who holds the records for the most wins, Phar Lap is just one of the horses that have made the Melbourne Cup a fascinating spectacle for avid race fans.
History of the Melbourne Cup : More Recent Times
In 2000, it was estimated that about 80 percent of the adult Australian population watched the race, whether from home or at the track itself, and it can be seen that the Melbourne Cup is a living tradition to Australians.
Today, the race is one of the most popular spectator sports in Australia.
In 2006, there were 106,691 attendees, which is still beaten by the record 122,736 who showed in 2003.
Today, the race draws many foreign competitors but to date, there has only been three foreign wins.
It's the day that almost all Australians place a bet, however small, because on Melbourne Cup day, "it is allowed".
And having a little bit of money on the line definitely makes the race more interesting.
The Melbourne Cup is part of the long tradition of horse racing in Australia and as can be seen from the crowds that flock to Melbourne on the first Tuesday in November, that it is certainly a tradition that is alive and well!
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