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Behind the Glamour : The History and Tradition of the Melbourne Cup

Australia, a country known for its vast landscapes and exciting cultural events. With a blend of European, Aboriginal, and Asian influences in its history and culture. The spring race carnival is arguably the most popular event in the country. Hosted by the state of Victoria, specifically in the city of Melbourne. An event that is held around late October to early November. The carnival boasts multiple events, but the biggest is the Melbourne Cup.

History of Melbourne cup

The Melbourne Cup was first held in the year 1861 at the Flemington racecourse in the city of Melbourne. The event is widely known as 'the race that stops a nation' due to its popularity and its acceptance into Australian culture. Soon after the settlement of the Europeans in Australia, horse racing was widely accepted into the sporting culture of the nation. The introduction of the Melbourne Cup was initiated by the Victorian Turf Club.

This was done to override the achievement of the races organized by the Victorian Jockey Club. The new race was designed to be a handicap horse race. Where horses are allocated different weights depending on their weight and previous form.

The intention of the Turf Club was to create a racing event that would attract spectators and more entries based on their speculation. Which would create a higher prize money. Eventually, in 1864, the merger of the two main competing organizations formed the Victoria racing club. Which is the club in charge of organizing the competition till date. It was first held on 7 November 1861, which happened to be a Thursday.

It wasn't till 1875 that the practice of running the event on Tuesday was adopted. The race is done at a distance of 3200 meters. The qualification is 3 years and above for the horses. It is a competition for Thoroughbred horses. Ventures by people from different backgrounds to try their luck on the track.

The past winners of this served as beacon of hope to the Australians in the past. However, the definition of the event now varies among the people who actively follow it. The emergence of Phar-Lap as the winner of the 1930 Melbourne Cup led to a sensational public image. The rise of his popularity was enormously helped by the introduction of radio broadcasts. Which led to his life being threatened.

Shortly before the Melbourne Cup, he was shot at while walking in Caulfield, a suburb of Melbourne. It served as a hope of the nation during the Great Depression, which was a difficult year for the people. A major downturn in the world economy which led to more than 30 percent unemployment in the country.

The rise of Phar-Lap, a Thoroughbred from a humble beginning, served as a source of inspiration to an ailing nation and to those suffering from unemployment. They nicknamed him the 'Red terror'. Phar-lap status has been elevated to stuff of legendary position. A public icon in Australian culture.

Traditions of the Event

Shortly before 3pm in the city of Melbourne, on the first Tuesday in the month of November. The governor of Victoria stands on the balcony overlooking the racetracks to address the multitude of people that have come to the city to participate in the event. In his majestic appearance, he proceeds to recite the famous race-call from the 'Tattershalls enclosure'.

An area at Flemington Racecourse that has been specially reserved for guests and dignitaries that have come to witness the event. A poetic recitation about the race and a description that has been handed over from one governor to the next. A tradition of the spring racing carnival beloved by many. Gathered around the enclosure and the world, millions of people listen to the words of the governor as he recites the race-call.

Being one of the most anticipated moments of the day, people see it as a good omen for the race. Just after the race-call, a silent minute is traditionally observed to remember those that have died in the racing industry. The jockeys are then introduced after the Australian national anthem has been sung to show the Australian spirit to the world. This is followed by the parade of the horses around the racetrack. It is widely known as the "March of the Horses". After that, the race commences.

It is a racing carnival. It has been recorded to be graced by multiple people from around the world. With the Australian taking pride in its splendor. From an event that was attended by just above 4000 people on its inauguration to above 200,000 at the height of the event.

The fashion on the field competitions evolved around the 1960s. The generosity of sponsors resulted in a significant rise in the prize pool. Fueled by panels of celebrity judges. Innovation resulted in a new wave of controversy throughout the fashion world. It is the most popular fashion show of the spring race carnival.

Different people have used the opportunity to showcase their fashion taste. With traditional accessories like hats, stockings and gloves. It captures the color of the event.

Fashion on the field created an amazing dynamism to the pageantry of Australian racing. It was simplified into two sections; Classic Race-wear and Classic Millinery. The traditional Classic Race-wear categories were changed to Women’s Race-wear and Men’s Race-wear in 2008. Men's competition came around the early 2000s.

This brought a different color to the iconic event. Celebrities locally and internationally continued the glamorous event by acting as guest judges and bringing attention of the event to the fashion world and on social media.

The Expansion and Innovation of the Melbourne Cup

The adoption of innovation into the event has seen the introduction of a handicapping system. The system is designed to assign weights to horses based on their past forms to create a competitive race. The aim of the innovation was to create a thrilling experience for spectators and to level the playing field.

The introduction of track maintenance technology like irrigation systems and track design for all types of weather. To protect the participants of the competition, the organizers have implemented different safety measures. Improvements to the tracks, strict veterinary inspections and regulations on the use of equipment.

These innovative approaches have launched the event to the top. The inclusion of modern technologies and regulations into the game has enhanced the integrity of the race.

To become the world's premier horse racing event, the Melbourne Cup had to innovate by expanding beyond the shores of Australia. The internationalization of the Melbourne Cup has shaped the status of the event. Over the years, the venue for the prestigious event has undergone major development. By improving its facilities to accommodate growing crowds.

The improvement includes upgrades to the track facilities, grandstands and hospitality areas to increase the spectator numbers. The event is covered by popular broadcasting and media outlets. They create exposure for the event, which makes it accessible to a wider audience beyond Australia.

The introduction of television and live broadcasting has been crucial in expanding the popularity of the Melbourne Cup. There has been a significant increase in prize money. Over the years, the event has attracted top trainers, jockeys, owners and celebrities from all walks of life.

The marketing of the event has also seen collaboration with different foreign brands, who in turn strike sponsorship deals with the organizers. Currently, there are multiple partners that have struck deals for the Melbourne Cup. From major partners to minor ones.

The Internationalization of Melbourne Cup

Competition has been open to competitors from countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, and the United States. They bring along with them different racing tactics and styles. To create a modern view of the event on the international level gave at the opportunity to 'vintage-Crop', a horse trained and bred in Ireland. He won the competition in the year 1993, despite long travels.

This launched the event to a different height with more countries participating in the event. For example, a Vintage-Crop trainer was able to train another European raider named 'Media Puzzle' who ended up winning the competition in the year 2002.

The year 2006 saw the first Japanese Thoroughbred horse win the race. Japan's Delta Blues surprised the world as they finished the 2-mile race in three minutes and twenty-one points forty seconds (3:21.47). It was an intriguing race with the Japanese horse defeating an Australian trained horse named pop rock.

This has led to more overseas bred horses and overseas trained raiders participating in the competition. With international imports purchased, they were bought over by Australian connections to win the prestigious event.

'Americain' in the year 2010 and 'Dunaden' of 2011 were both prepared in France to the tune of their success. Perfectionist, a German-trained raider, followed in the footsteps of the previous horse by winning the 2014 edition. 2017 and 2018 saw consecutive success of international winners. The winners were Rekindling and Cross Counter respectively.

The organizers have actively established the Melbourne Cup on the global stage by leveraging the use of digital platforms, social media and taking advantage of partnerships with international racing organizations to attract more participants from diverse backgrounds.

Controversies Behind the Glamour of Melbourne Cup

By the year 2020, there have been deaths of seven horses recorded in recent years. This has reduced the attendance of the Melbourne Cup. It recorded the lowest turnout in the year 2022 with a staggering number of 73,816 race goers since 1995. The abuse of animals during the preparation and participation of the event has opened the eyes of many to the cruelty happening.

Many horses were treated without dignity even after they had won the competition. Recent exposure of the dark side of the event has reduced the involvement of major celebrities and brands from associating with the event. By mandating Melbourne Cup runners to undergo a diagnostic CT scan before they are allowed to participate in the race. These changes resulted from the review made by the organizers.

Even at that, catastrophic injuries can still happen to horses without any pre-existing conditions. Activists advocating for the rights of animals have objected to whipping and tongue ties. They have constantly argued that racing can cause health issues like stomach ulcers and bleeding from the lungs.

Gambling activities have also skyrocketed with the increase in the popularity of the event. This has led to a huge loss in the finances of Australians. Financial losses, psychological expenses and many more. Which also include relationship costs have been identified by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) as concerns.

With around $7 billion lost in the state of Victoria alone. The ills of gambling have contributed to the reduction of the participation of people in the Melbourne Cup. Recent studies have shown an increase in domestic abuse and irrational behavior after a racing event. Alcohol abuse has been identified as a major issue which stems from the event. Higher awareness has been given to people to create a healthy lifestyle.

Also, the Melbourne Cup has created a fly-in, fly-out winner. With more focus on rich and glamorous celebrities. This has reduced the inclusion of a wider range of people due to the focus on flash flocks at the track. The Melbourne Cup event is now tagged as an event for the rich only.

A shift in collective awareness of the ills behind the Glamour of the event has turned people away from racing events altogether. However, many still hold the Melbourne Cup as a social event. Without any doubt, it has increasingly become controversial in recent years.

Exploring the Impact of Sports Betting on the Melbourne Cup

Sports betting has become an integral part of the Melbourne Cup, shaping its dynamics and influencing the overall experience for participants and spectators alike. As the event evolved from its humble beginnings to a global spectacle, the surge in gambling activities has significantly impacted the Melbourne Cup, shaping its dynamics and overall experience.

Also, it has introduced an additional layer of thrill and engagement to the event, elevating the excitement and competitive spirit. This aspect of the Cup has attracted a wider audience, including those who may not have been initially interested in horse racing, thus expanding its popularity and reach.

On the flip side, the surge in sports betting has brought about concerns regarding financial impacts. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has pointed out substantial financial losses, estimated at around $7 billion in Victoria alone. These losses not only affect individuals but also have broader economic implications, contributing to psychological stress, increased gambling-related expenses, and potential strain on relationships.

Moreso, while it adds a sense of prestige and allure, it also creates a perception of exclusivity, potentially alienating certain segments of the audience. This divergence from the event's roots as a cultural and sporting celebration for all raises questions about inclusivity and accessibility.

The rise in sports betting has also shed light on animal welfare concerns within the racing industry. For instance, activists have raised issues regarding the treatment of horses, including practices like whipping, tongue ties, and health risks such as stomach ulcers and lung bleeding. Efforts to address these concerns, such as the mandate for Melbourne Cup runners to undergo diagnostic CT scans, demonstrate ongoing efforts to prioritize animal welfare.

Finally, while sports betting has added excitement and engagement to the Melbourne Cup, it has also raised significant challenges which is why itr is important that punters select the best betting sites for their activities. Balancing the positive aspects of enhanced engagement with the negative impacts on financial well-being, inclusivity, and animal welfare remains a pressing issue. As the Melbourne Cup continues to evolve, addressing these challenges responsibly will be crucial to ensuring its sustainability and relevance in the modern era.


The Melbourne Cup serves as a symbol of Australia's rich sporting and cultural legacy. It has developed during its illustrious history. From a small-town horse racing event to a world-famous spectacle that captivates millions of people worldwide. The Melbourne Cup has come under fire for a number of reasons, from societal effects to horse welfare, despite its glitz and glitter.

Still, its ongoing appeal and cultural significance continue to influence Australians and horse racing fans' global identities. The event continues to be a representation of custom and ingenuity. The unwavering spirit of the competition continues even as it negotiates the challenges of the contemporary world.