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Learn all about the history of the Melbourne Cup, including winning horses, jockeys, trainers, owners and more.
The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most important thoroughbred horse race, and Melbourne Cup history is incredibly rich dating back from the inaugural event in 1861 through until today’s 2020 Melbourne Cup on Tuesday November 3, 2020.
The race is held over a distance of 3,200 metres, the traditional two-mile cup distance, for horses three years and older and is the richest and most prestigious “two-mile” handicap in the world.
Fondly called “The Race that Stops a Nation”, Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday in metropolitan Melbourne.
Every first Tuesday of November is marked for the Melbourne Cup date, and Melbourne Cup history has spanned centuries since its first gallop in 1861.
First Fleet and the Legend of Archer
In January 1788, Port Jackson received the First Fleet and its cargo of a stallion, four mares, a colt and a filly. This landfall marked the beginning of horse history in Australia. In 1835, Melbourne settlers marked out a horse track soon after they set up their homes. Bullock carts were grandstands and a coat stand marked the winning post. Bets were made and paid with bottles of rum.
Soon the venue moved from bullock carts to Flemington. A three-day event in March 1840 sealed the beginning of official horse racing history in Melbourne. Minor clubs ran the races until the Victoria Turf Club took over in 1861. That first Thursday of November marked the beginning of Melbourne Cup history. This momentous race was run by seventeen horses and won by a bay stallion, Archer. Legend has it that Archer walked over 500 miles from Terara in New South Wales to participate in the race. Archer won again the following year for a prize of 810 gold sovereigns (£810) and a gold watch.This was the trophy given before the traditional Loving Cup which the Melbourne Cup is known for. Archer went on to win the race the following year, making him one of only five horses to win the event more than once.
The Race That Stops A Nation
The Victoria Turf Club and the Victoria Jockey Club merged to form the Victoria Racing Club in 1864. The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) had taken charge of the proceedings since then. The Melbourne Cup saw more promise and popularity under the VRC.
By 1865, Melbourne Cup Day was declared a half day holiday. By 1877 it was declared a whole day holiday to allow patrons to crowd the Flemington Racecourse. The Melbourne Cup was first held on the first Tuesday of November in 1875. It then too adopted the four-day format, which later evolved to today’s well-attended Carnival. From then until now the Melbourne Cup was growing to a locally and internationally supported event.
The Flemington race track is the most popular course in Australia and the home of the organisers of the Victoria Racing Club. The whole field has a capacity of 120,000. Spectators who cannot get into Flemington watch from the television panels outside of the field. The pear-shaped track has a back straight of six furlongs. The final straight to the finishing post measures 450 metres long. The length of the home stretch has decided Melbourne Cup races throughout history.
Early Melbourne Cup Winners
Melbourne Cup history has seen a long line of proud winners. Archer, ridden by John Cutts, started off by winning the race in its first two consecutive years. At the inaugural race one horse bolted before the start, and three of the seventeen starters fell during the race, two of which died. Archer then defeated the favourite, Victorian champion Mormon, by six lengths. On his third year, Archer was scratched on a technicality. A small field of just seven starters ran that race as many others scratched their horses in sympathy.
Melbourne Cup’s first Tuesday in November 1876 saw the three-year-old filly Briseis win in a time of 3.36.25. She then went on to win the VRC Derby, the Melbourne Cup and the VRC Oaks in a span of six days. Apart from that impressive record, she was ridden by the youngest jockey ever to win. Featherweight Peter St Albans was eight days short of 13 years old when he and Briseis set their record that is likely to last for all Melbourne Cup history.
Phar Lap is the most famous horse of his day and was the champion of the 1930 Melbourne Cup. He won the race as the shortest priced favourite in Melbourne Cup history at 11/8 odds on. He even had to be hidden away at Geelong before the race after an attempt was made to shoot him.
Melbourne Cup Records
|Fastest Winning Time:||3:16.3 by Kingston Rule in 1990|
|Widest Winning Margin:||8 Lengths by Archer in 1862 and Rain Lover in 1968|
|Trainer Most Wins:||12 times Bart Cummings (1965, 1966, 1967, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1990, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2008)|
|Horse Most Wins:||3 times Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005)|
|Jockey Most Wins:||4 times Bobby Lewis (1902, 1915, 1919, 1927) and Harry White (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979)|
The best timing in Melbourne Cup history was recorded by Kingston Rule in the 1990 Cup Day. He clocked in a still unbreakable record of 3:16:3. His namesake Kingston Town is known as the champ of the eighties. Further years into Melbourne Cup history show more records made and more favourites winning the race.
Melbourne Cup Trophies and Prizes
The first ever prize handed out in Melbourne Cup history was 710 gold sovereigns and a hand-beaten gold watch. Archer and his rider did not complain in 1861, but prizes have grown to be more valuable since then. A trophy has only been handed to the winner since 1865, and was originally in the form of a miniature horse and rider atop a silver bowl with decorative handles. The trophy changed form and metal in the following decades. Finally in 1919 the trophy now known as the Melbourne Cup was introduced.
Prize money traditionally came with the trophy. The 1985 Melbourne Cup became the first race in Australia with prize money of $1 million. The Cup currently carries a $500,000 bonus to the owner of the winning horse. In recent years, total prize money exceeds $7.57 million.
Recent years in Melbourne Cup History
The most visible change in Melbourne Cup history is the arrival of many foreign-trained horses in the last decade. The attraction for foreigners to compete was primarily the change to the new “quality handicap” weighting system. The first foreign bred horse to win was Comedy King in the 1910 Melbourne Cup.
Melbourne Cup history initially did not witness nor allow women competing. Maree Lyndon became the first female to do it with horse Argonaut Style in 1987. Unfortunately, she came up second last. In 2001, the Cup was won by New Zealand mare Ethereal. She was trained by Sheila Laxon, the first woman to formally train a Melbourne Cup winner. Racing fans that think they can use history to better their chances of picking the winner should visit Freebets.com.au for a wider range of promotions and bookmaker brands.
In 2005 Makybe Diva made Melbourne Cup history by becoming the only horse to win the race three times. The 2006 Melbourne Cup was won by the Japanese horse, Delta Blues by a nose over another Japanese horse, Pop Rock. The 2007 winner was Efficient, and the 2008 Melbourne Cup’s winners were Viewed and rider Blake Shinn. In 2009, Shocking lived up to his name to take the Cup despite being seen as an outside chance before the race.
In 2010 the first French-trained horse added their name to the Melbourne Cup winners’ list with Americain, then prepared by Alain de Royer Dupre, taking out the historic 150th edition of the race.
Melbourne Cup history repeated itself in 2011 with another French galloper in Dunaden taking out the Melbourne Cup trophy in the race’s closest ever photo-finish with Red Cadeaux.
In 2013 Gai Waterhouse won her first ‘Loving Trophy’ with Fiorente, before the raiders were back in the Melbourne Cup winners’ stall with the 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist prepared in Germany.
Melbourne Cup history was made again with the 2015 Melbourne Cup results as the Darren Weir-trained Prince Of Penzance scored at triple-figure Melbourne Cup odds ($101)! That year also saw jockey Michelle Payne become the first female hoop in Melbourne Cup history to ride home a winner of the two mile classic.
Owner Lloyd Williams made Melbourne Cup history in 2016 winning his fifth ‘Loving Trophy’ with Almandin and then his sixth the following year with Rekindling. He celebrated his seventh success in 2020 with Twilight Payment to become the most successful Melbourne Cup owner in history.
In 2019 Vow And Declare became the first Australian-bred Melbourne Cup winner since Shocking (2009).
Which horse will win this year’s Melbourne Cup? Check out all the latest Melbourne Cup betting markets online now at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Recent Melbourne Cup Winners
|2020||Twilight Payment||Tiger Moth||Prince Of Arran||3:17.34|
|2019||Vow And Declare||Prince Of Arran||Il Paradiso||3:24.76|
|2018||Cross Counter||Marmelo||Prince Of Arran||3:21.17|
|2017||Rekindling||Johannes Vermeer||Max Dynamite||3:21.19|
|2015||Prince Of Penzance||Max Dynamite||Criterion||3:22.15|
|2014||Protectionist||Red Cadeaux||Who Shot Thebarman||3:17.71|
|2013||Fiorente||Red Cadeaux||Mount Athos||3:20.30|
|2011||Dunaden||Red Cadeaux||Lucas Cranach||3:20.84|
|2010||Americain||Maluckyday||So You Think||3:26.87|
|2008||Viewed||Bauer||C’est La Guerre||3:20.40|
|2006||Delta Blues||Pop Rock||Maybe Better||3:21.50|
|2005||Makybe Diva||On A Jeune||Xcellent||3:19.17|
|2004||Makybe Diva||Vinnie Roe||Zazzman||3:28.55|
|2003||Makybe Diva||She’s Archie||Jardine’s Lookout||3:19.90|
|2002||Media Puzzle||Mr Prudent||Beekeeper||3:16.97|
|2001||Ethereal||Give The Slip||Persian Punch||3:21.08|
|1999||Rogan Josh||Central Park||Lahar||3:19.64|
|1997||Might And Power||Doriemus||Markham||3:18.33|
|1995||Doriemus||Nothin’ Leica Dane||Vintage Crop||3:27.60|
|1993||Vintage Crop||Te Akau Nick||Mercator||3:23.40|
|1991||Let’s Elope||Shiva’s Revenge||Magnolia Hall||3:18.90|
|1990||Kingston Rule||The Phantom||Mr Brooker||3:16.30|
|1988||Empire Rose||Natksi||Na Botto||3:18.90|
|1986||At Talaq||Rising Fear||Sea Legend||3:21.70|
|1985||What A Nuisance||Koiro Corrie May||Tripsacum||3:23.00|
|1984||Black Night||Chagemar||Mapperley Heights||3:18.90|
|1983||Kiwi||Noble Comment||Mr Jazz||3:18.90|
|1982||Gurner’s Lane||Kingston Town||Noble Comment||3:21.20|
|1981||Just A Dash||El Laurena||Flashing Light||3:21.20|
|1980||Beldale Ball||My Blue Denim||Lover Bandit||3:19.80|
|1977||Gold And Black||Reckless||Hyperno||3:18.40|
|1976||Van Der Hum||Gold And Black||Kythera||3:34.10|
|1975||Think Big||Holiday Waggon||Medici||3:29.60|
|1974||Think Big||Leilani||Captain Peri||3:23.10|
|1970||Baghdad Note||Vansittart||Clear Prince||3:19.70|