The Melbourne Cup is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the entire Australian sporting calendar. Millions of people crowd round screens to watch the world’s best stayers fight & compete over a lung-busting 3200m, and the bookmakers enjoy a roaring trade. Yet there are many interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about the race that stops a nation:
The Melbourne Cup Might Just Be the World’s Most Popular Race.
The Grand National at Aintree has long been considered the world’s most popular race. It attracts a global audience of around 600 million to 650 million each year, and it is broadcast in more than 140 different countries. However, Victoria Racing Club chair Amanda Elliott claimed that the 2018 Melbourne Cup was “watched by more than 750 million people across 163 territories globally”.
VRC chief executive Neil Wilson repeated the claim this year when he pointed out the Melbourne Cup has a reach of 750 million people around the globe. That would leave the Melbourne Cup ahead of the Grand National in the popularity stakes, and well ahead of races like the Kentucky Derby, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Dubai World Cup and The Everest. It may be known as the race that stops a nation, but it appears that the Melbourne Cup stops several nations across the world each November.
The Favourite Rarely Wins the Melbourne Cup.
Sydney outsider Archer pulled off a shock win ahead of local favourite Mormon when the first Melbourne Cup was staged in 1861. That set the tone for underdogs thriving in the race. It has been held 139 times, and the favourite has won just 35 times. That trend has become even more pronounced in the modern era, as just six favourites have emerged victorious since 1983: Let’s Elope (1991), Might and Power (1997), Jezabeel (1998), Makybe Diva (2005 and 2006) and Fiorente (2013).
The winner has often come from the top three in the betting, but the number of beaten favourites highlights just how competitive the Cup is. Four 100/1 ($101) roughies have actually won the race over the years: The Pearl (1871), Wotan (1936), Old Rowley (1940) and then Prince of Penzance (2015). Last year’s winner, Vow and Declare, went off at $10, and 2018 victor Cross Counter was priced at $9 when the race began.
A 30-Year Record Remains Unbroken.
Tawriffic won the Melbourne Cup in 3:17.1 back in 1989, smashing the previous record. The following year, Kingston Rule finished the race in just 3:16.3, finishing well clear of his rivals and instantly shattering Tawriffic’s record. It seemed as though the winning times would continue to grow shorter in the ensuing years, but Kingston Rule’s record is still unbroken as we look forward to the 2020 Melbourne Cup.
Media Puzzle came the closest to breaking it when he won the race in 3:16.97 back in 2002, but Makybe Diva and Protectionist are the only runners to finishing in less than 3:20 since then. Vow and Declare won the race in 3:24.76 last year, while Cross Counter won it in 3:21.17 last year. Can one of this year’s hopefuls finally knock Kingston Rule off his perch? You can read the profiles of the runners here and make up your mind. Kingston Rule’s pedigree was impeccable – he was sired by record-breaking US Triple Crown champion Secretariat and out of 1982 Australian Horse of the Year Rose of Kingston – but some of this year’s runners also have impressive pedigree.
No Horse Has Ever Won from Barrier 18.
Barrier 18 is cursed. The barrier system was introduced in 1924, and it is the only barrier that has never produced a Melbourne Cup winner. Barrier 5 has yielded eight different winners in that time, including the 2013 champion Fiorente, while Barrier 11 has produced seven winners, and Barriers 10 and 14 have produced six winners. For some reason, Barrier 18 just never yields a winner, so you might want to avoid the unfortunate stayer that lands that draw when making your Melbourne Cup betting selections.
Males Have Won the Last 14 Melbourne Cups.
The legendary Makybe Diva became the most successful horse in Melbourne Cup history when she completed a hat-trick of victories in 2005. However, mares and fillies have not managed a single victory in the race since then. Makybe Diva is actually just one of five mares to win the Cup since 1965, along with Empire Rose (1988), Let’s Elope (1991), Jezabeel (1998) and Ethereal (2001).
In 2019, Vow and Declare became the 14th consecutive male stayer to salute. However, that trend could finally end in 2020. Verry Elleegant is on fire this year. She obliterated her rivals in the Group 1 Winx Stakes in August, and then won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes in convincing fashion on October 3. There are no concerns about her stamina, and her pace and determination are seriously impressive, so Verry Elleegant could be the one to finally end the male dominance over this race.