The biggest and richest race staged in Australia, the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse brings the entire country to a standstill and as a result is known as the "Race That Stops A Nation".
Worth $6million in total - making it the richest two-mile race anywhere on the planet, the best performers from across the globe chase one of world racing's most treasured prizes. Run over the 3200m distance, the race crowns the staying champion.
The Group 1 race is an open handicap for horses aged three and upwards. It is the headline act of the Melbourne Spring Carnival
and the four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival
at Flemington, and takes place at 3pm on the first Tuesday of November each year. First held on a Tuesday in 1875 (it had taken place on Thursday previously), Melbourne Cup had been declared a public holiday two years earlier - something that remains the case to this day.
The Melbourne Cup was first held in 1861 and Archer beat his 16 rivals home to be the first name on the roll of honour. He repeated the feat 12 months on for good measure, setting a yet to be beaten record winning distance of eight lengths.
In the years since, he has been joined by some of the greats of horse racing - names of the ilk of three-year-old filly Briseis, who was ridden to victory in 1876 by 12-year-old Peter St Albans and who went to win the Victoria Derby
and the Crown Oaks
afterwards - all in the space of six days, 1890 winner Carbine, Night Watch in 1918, the great Phar Lap, who took the race at the second attempt in 1930 at the shortest ever price of 8/11, Peter Pan, who became the second dual winner in 1932 and 1934, 1965 winner Light Fingers, Rain Lover, the first back-to-back winner since Archer in 1968 and 1969, Kingston Rule, who set a Melbourne Cup record time when winning in 1990,
Makybe Diva wins the Melbourne Cup for a third year in a row in 2005
The greatest winner of all is Makybe Diva, who claimed an unprecedented hat-trick of Melbourne Cup wins between 2003-2005. In 2004, she created two bits of history in becoming the first filly to win twice and the first horse to win with different trainers having been saddled to victory by Lee Freedman following her switch the David Hall stable. In 2005, in front an expectant 106,479 Flemington crowd, she became the first-ever three-time winner of the Melbourne Cup.
Watch Makybe Diva make history in 2005
Just five overseas trained horses have won the Melbourne Cup since being permitted to enter. The Irish-trained Vintage Crop was the first foreign visitor to win the race in 1993 and the same Dermot Weld stable repeated the trick with Media Puzzle in 2002. Delta Blues led home a Japanese one-two from Pop Rock in 2006 before the French recorded back-to-back successes courtesy of Americain and Dunaden in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Dunaden fights out the 2011 Emirates Melbourne Cup finish with Red Cadeaux
Now limited to 24 horses, the biggest field in Melbourne Cup history came in the early days in 1890 when 39 clashed at Flemington. The smallest field was just seven runners in 1863 following a boycott of the race by owners and trainers following the decision to scratch reigning champion Archer because of a late acceptance.
Between 300 and 400 horses will be nominated for the race at various stages of the year with fees to be paid at four points to remain an acceptor, but only 24 (plus four emergencies) horses will make the final field at the balloting stage.
The winners of some worldwide races are exempt from the ballot should they choose to run in the Melbourne Cup. They are the Lexus Stakes, Victoria Derby
, Mackinnon Stakes
, Cox Plate
, Caulfield Cup
and Australian Stayers Challenge in Australia, the Doncaster Cup in Britain, the Irish St Leger in Ireland and the Spring Tenno Sho in Japan.
The remainder of the 24-strong field is decided by a balloting system with the deciding factors including prize money earned during the last two years, performances in particular lead-up races and the weight allotted by the handicapper, which are revealed in September more than a month before the big race. After the weights are declared, any subsequent victories incur weight penalties depending on the class of race won.
That, of course, means betting in the pre-nominations markets ahead of the race can be a bit of a landmine exercise with leading fancies in the betting not necessarily guaranteed a run. Therefore, finding a bookmaker offering non-runner no bet offers is the way to go and Bet365
are two that do have NRNB on big races.
With an international each year, form pointers for the Melbourne Cup need careful consideration. The Group 2 Lexus Stakes at Flemington three days earlier, the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes
and the Group 1 Victoria Derby
, for the three-year-old contenders who would be bidding to match the feat of Phar Lap (1930) and Efficienct (2006) by winning both, are historically the most popular lead up races, but it is the Group 3 Geelong Cup
that has the best recent record. Staged during the Spring Carnival, the race was won by Americain and Dunaden prior to their Melbourne Cup successes in 2010 and 2011 respectively.