The Melbourne Cup is such a big part of Australian sporting culture that almost everyone has a good grasp of what the race is about. But there’s more to the Melbourne Cup and its history than meets the eye. Here are seven things you didn’t know about the Melbourne Cup.
One: The Melbourne Cup is a major contributor to Melbourne’s economy
And we’re not talking about the race tickets for the 80,000+ people who watch the event every year. An estimated $50 million is spent on fashion items and retail over the course of the Spring Racing Carnival, and the Melbourne Cup also significantly drives up consumption of alcoholic beverages on the race day. In addition out-of-state visitors contribute over $155 million to the Victorian economy. Which brings us to the second fact…
Two: The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s booziest sports event
Over the years images of drunken racegoers snapped at Flemington have become a tabloid staple. However, these images don’t do justice to just how much alcohol Australians are knocking back on Melbourne Cup day. Over 45,000 bottles of champagne are consumed at Flemington Racecourse alone, which means every racegoer drinks on average 3 glasses of champagne along with whatever else goes down the hatch. However, claims that 25 million swimming pools of alcohol are consumed on race day (which would average almost a swimming pool of booze per Australian resident) are exaggerated.
Three: A horse has never won the Melbourne Cup from barrier 18
Nobody is quite sure why this is the case, but with barriers used since 1924, and only 24 barriers on the field, each barrier should theoretically have produced around four winners by now. Given this fact it’s also interesting to note that no barrier has produced more than seven Melbourne Cup winners, with no barrier standing out as being exceptionally lucky.
Four: The Melbourne Cup was once won by Russia
Not the country, but the horse of the same name who took the 1946 edition of the Peoples’ Race.
Five: Mares hold their own
Most major international Group 1 races are increasingly dominated by colts, with only the occasional win by an exceptional filly or mare. In fact female entries in races like the Epsom Derby have become quite rare. In comparison wins by fillies are becoming more common in the Melbourne Cup, with fillies or mares winning the race five times since 1998. In addition only a mare has managed to take a treble in the race.
Six: During World War Two the Melbourne Cup was run on Saturdays
At least this was the case between 1942 and 1944. This was despite other major sports events in Australia and the rest of the world being paused for the duration of the war. However, almost a third of Australia’s male population would have had to tune in for the race from the conflict theatres where they were deployed.
Seven: Strange trophies
The 1889 Melbourne Cup winner was presented with a silver tea and coffee service for this accomplishment. Other unusual Melbourne Cup trophies include the gold watch given to the first winner, the silver punch bowl, tankard and beakers handed to the 1893 winner and the golden horse shoe collected by the 1887 winner. The 1894 winner received no trophy at all courtesy of the depression affecting Australia at the time.
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