With Spring fast approaching, we thought that it’s about time we shared with you our guide to the most famous Australian horse racing event- the Melbourne Cup.
Held every Tuesday 1st on November, the Melbourne Cup Race is such a big deal In Victoria that the day of the event is a public holiday. Nicknamed the race that stops a nation, the Melbourne Cup is the largest horse racing event in all of Australia, and is among the four largest such events in the whole world!
When you consider the fact that Flemington racecourse, where the event is held, is always full (almost to capacity), It’s easy to see how the sporting event got its nickname. And that’s not even counting the number of people who watch the event from as far as Brisbane to the east and Perth to the West!
The Melbourne Cup is not popular just for the race though. It is just one event in the larger Melbourne Cup Carnival, a week-long celebration of culture, great food and life. Granted, the Melbourne cup day is the most famous race, but several other interesting events happen in Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival.
Our guide and latest news shall take you through the events as they happen chronologically. In that order, we shall begin with the AAMI Victoria Derby Day, then the all famous Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, the Kennedy Oaks Day and finally the Seppelt Wines Stakes Day.
We know how racing jargon can be confusing, so don’t worry, where we use a technical term, we shall define it. Here we go!
The AAMI Victoria Derby Day- 2nd November
Melbourne’s Spring Racing Festival is usually launched by the Victoria Derby Day. On this day nine group horse races are held and thus the day is usually particularly popular with punters. The races are set aside for three-year-old horses, over a distance of 2.5 kilometres (2500 metres).
There’s a lot at stake on the main race day of the country, not just for those who love betting on the ponies but also for the racers themselves. The most elite group race carries with it a purse of a whopping $ 2,000,000.
The Myer Fashions on the Field
Not everyone is an avid race-goer. If you’re such a person, we guarantee that you’ll still have fun at this carnival. The carnival is more about socialising and celebrating culture than it is about competition.
The Myer Fashions on the Field competition is an affirmation of the statement above. As the name suggests this is a fashion competition, especially suited for couples. The fashion competition having begun in 1961 has cemented itself as the most prestigious outdoors fashion competition in all of Australia.
The rules are that men have to dress in grey while women have to wear black and white. Last year revolutionised the competition. Unlike other years, this time, photographers transversed every state from new south wales to the south, Western Australia, Queensland to the east and the Northern Territory, taking photos of contenders.
The best dressed from each state were flown to Melbourne where they competed live on the big screens for prizes worth $380,000!
To look your best for the festival, check out our list of the very best Melbourne make-up courses.
The Lexus Melbourne Cup Day- 5th November
It’s the big race! The tradition that the Melbourne Cup occurs every first Tuesday of November has held since the inception of the carnival. This year’s race day will be on the fifth of November.
If you miss every other day of the carnival, don’t miss Melbourne Cup Day! There’s a reason they call it the race that stops a nation. There’s a lot at stake for both the racers and the racegoers! being the most anticipated event, the sweepstakes are huge. So is the prize money for the Melbourne cup winner- $8,000,000.
Only 3 other races in the world surpass that figure. Sydney cup doesn’t even come close with its $2,000,000. That puts things into context!
The race is set aside for three-year-old and above thoroughbreds and is usually set over a distance of 3.2 kilometres (3200 metres). The final field is usually decided on the 3rd of November two days prior.
The race is classified as a handicap race, simply meaning that to even the playing field, the weight carried by each horse is regulated such that the younger international horses carry comparatively less weight than the older ones.
As you can imagine, the excitement and anticipation are immense. And you don’t need to be a VIP guest seating at the special marquees to understand this. If you know anything about sports events the experience is more enjoyable at the stands.
Admission tickets vary based on access and perks, but in general, they range from the prestigious the Victorian Racing Club Members Guest Pass, the VRC Junior Members pass the individual adult pass and the family pass. That said you can get more information on ticket pricing here.
Winners, Past & Present
Since 1861, Melbourne Cup has had a long history of winners including the likes of Maybe Diva who won the race three times. We won’t list all of them, but for comparison, you should check Pharlap, one of the most famous horses to win the race in the early 20th century and last years winner (Cross Counter).
Kennedy Oaks Day- 7th November
Also known as Ladies Day, Oaks Day traditionally happens two days after the Melbourne cup, usually on a Thursday. The colloquial name fits the bill in this case as the race is sanctioned for three years and above fillies. The name itself has changed over time, from Victoria Racing Club oaks in 1861, to Crown Oakes in 2007 to Kennedy Oaks Day in 2017.
In recent years, Oaks Day has soared in popularity. In fact, this race has recorded the highest growth rates for attendance with 2004 breaking attendance records with a stadium filling figure of 110,677 people.
The highlight of the show is usually the Group one race in which the top three stayers have a go at it for the prestigious prize as well as prize money of $1,000,000.
Since the mid 20th century Oaks Day has been primarily marketed for women. To that end, aside from the race itself, it is on Oakes Day that the winner the Myers Fashions on the Field for Women’s Race-wear is revealed. In recent years though, gentlemen have also taken an interest in the day, and rightly so, because it’s a welcome distraction from what could be an otherwise busy week.
Seppelt Wines Stakes Day- 9th November
There’s no better way to end a week’s worth of competition. Seppelt Wines Stakes Day is usually the last race day as well as the final day for the carnival. Also known as Family Day, stakes day is the perfect day to bring out the whole family for some fun at the racecourse.
Despite being the last day of the carnival, the Seppelt Wines Race Day has one Group 1 weight for age race (WHA) race, which is sanctioned for 2000 metres and has prize money worth $2,000,000.
That being said, the day is family-focused in general. As part of the many activities at the racecourse is a family-oriented field fashion competition.
How to Access Flemington Racecourse
There are many options to access the racecourse.
If you’re driving, we advise that you arrive early. There is limited free parking on Flemington Drive and near the Stables Drive entrance. For VRC members, there’s parking available too, although prior reservations must be made to access it.
For those opting to use the train service, take the train to New Market Station. From there the racecourse is just a few minutes walks. You may also opt to use the tram services, in which case the West Maribyrnong tram (No. 57) will drop you off at Flemington Drive.
For those opting to use the bus service, two bus routes will get you to Flemington. Route 472 and Route 404. Route 472 will have you accessing the racecourse from the Riverbank entrance, while route 404 will give you access to the Stables Drive entrance.
What to Wear
Yes, the racecourse does have a dress code. It’s in keeping with racing Victoria tradition and is usually quite strict.
Men are required to wear tailored suits, while ladies are advised to dress “modestly”- which according to Flemington racecourse guidelines means that no short jumpsuits, shorts of any kind, or clothing that reveals the midriff will be permitted. There’s no strict dressing requirement for children as long as they’re “neat.”
if you’re visiting Melbourne from abroad and are worried about the dress code, you have no reason to. The Melbourne Cup Field racecourse takes into account internationals and provides that you may wear your country of origin’s official dress attire.
To learn more about ticket prices, activities and more, go here.