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Melbourne Cup

From Academic Kids

The Melbourne Cup is Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race. "The race that stops a nation", as it has been called, is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3,200 metres. The race has been held on the first Tuesday in November since 1861 in Melbourne, Australia. The race is held at Flemington Racecourse by the Victoria Racing Club. It is run as a "weight-for-age handicap", in which the weight of the jockey, and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a nominated figure. Older horses are given more weight than younger ones, and weightings are further adjusted according to the horse's previous results.

In the past, such weightings were performed to theoretically give each horse an equal chance of winning the cup, but in recent years the rules have been adjusted to that of a "quality handicap" where superior horses are given less severe weight penalties than would be the case under pure handicap rules. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious "two-mile" (the race was originally held over a distance of two miles, which is approximately 3,218 metres) handicap in the world. It is one of the most popular spectator events in Melbourne, with over 110,000 people, some dressed in traditional formal raceday wear and others in all manner of exotic and amusing costumes, attending the race.

'Fashions On The Field' is in fact a major focus of the day, with substantial prizes awarded for the best-dressed female and more recently male racegoers. The requirement for elegant hats almost single-handedly keeps Melbourne's milliners in business. Raceday fashion has, on occasion, drawn almost as much attention as the race itself, with the miniskirt receiving worldwide publicity when model Jean Shrimpton, an invited guest unfamiliar with Melbourne's conservatism at the time, wore one to a lead-up event to Cup Day (it was actually Derby Day where she wore the mini) in 1965.

In Melbourne and surrounding areas, the race day is a public holiday, but around the country a large majority of people watch the race on television and gamble on the race, either through direct betting or participating in workplace cup "sweeps". In 2000 it was estimated that 80% of the adult Australian population placed a bet on the race through legal betting agencies such as Tabcorp [1] (http://www.tablimited.com.au/news.asp?NCID=1&NID=100). Its description as the "race that stops a nation" is well-deserved.

Racing purists and "serious" betters dislike the Cup, as the unusually long distance and handicap rules make the result highly unpredictable and allows mediocre horses to win. They regard the Cox Plate, a 2,040 metre weight-for-age race, as a true indication of the best horses in Australia.

The race has undergone several alterations over the past decade, the most visible being the arrival of many foreign horses to contest the race (notwithstanding the many winners from New Zealand including the famous Phar Lap) in the last decade. Most have failed to cope with the conditions, with only Irish trainer Dermott Weld successful, in 1993 with Vintage Crop and 2002 with Media Puzzle. The attraction for foreigners to compete however, was the far less visible change to the new "quality handicap" weighting system.

The 2001 the Melbourne Cup was won by New Zealand mare Ethereal, trained by Sheila Laxon, the first woman to formally train a Cup winner. She also won the Caulfield Cup, a similar Melburnian race, and therefore has won 'the Cups Double'.

In 2004 Makybe Diva became the first mare to win back-to-back cups, and also the first horse to win twice with different trainers, after David Hall moved to Hong Kong and transferring her to the Lee Freedman stables.

See also

Australian horse-racing, Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival

Melbourne Cup winners

External links

nl:Melbourne Cup

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