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Melbourne Cup: Australia’s obsession

 

The Melbourne Cup is the richest “two-mile” handicap horserace in the world. The race is conducted annually by the Victoria Racing Club on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria, on the first Tuesday of every November.

A short history

The first Melbourne Cup race was held in 1861 over two miles (3.219 km). The course was shortened to just under two miles (3,200 meters) in 1972 when Australia adopted the metric system. This reduced the total distance by 187 meters (61.3 ft), and Rain Lover’s 1968 race record of 3:19.1 was accordingly adjusted to 3:17.9. The present record holder is the 1990 winner Kingston Rule with a time of 3:16.3.

The Melbourne Cup is one of the most popular spectator events in Australia, sometimes exceeding 110,000 people in attendance. The dress code varies from traditional, formal race day wear to all types of exotic and amusing costumes. The record attendance was 122,736 in 2003. Irregular bettors can enter a sweep, which is a lottery in which each ticket holder is matched with a randomly drawn horse.

How important is the Melbourne Cup?

The importance of the race to Australians is very clear: In the Melbourne metropolitan area, the race day has been declared a public holiday since 1877. Even in New Zealand, the Melbourne Cup is the country’s single biggest betting event, with carnival race-days held at several of the country’s top tracks showing the event live on big screens in public places. It’s popularity is even wider than just these two countries: The race is televised live to an audience of about 650 million people worldwide. So popular and well known is the race that a poem was written and published about it: Sydney-born writer Vivienne McCredie wrote “The Race That Stops The Nation” in 1986.

It has its extremes

Most people in Melbourne gladly accept the excuse of a public holiday to take the day off from work. This indulgence may have a darker side, too. Apparently, scientists have identified a highly contagious Melbourne Cup virus with symptoms that include an inescapable fixation on winning the Melbourne Cup that dominates every moment of a sufferer’s waking hours. Better watch out for this and other symptoms that include nausea, headaches and a tendency to wear navy blue!

Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne_Cup http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/melbourne-cup-day http://www.turfdeli.com.au/MelbourneCupNewsletter2013.htm

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