Next Tuesday November 1, the Melbourne Cup will take place at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria. This 3,200 meter race is one of Australia’s most prestigious thoroughbred horse races. It is the richest “two-mile” handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races. Conducted annually by the Victoria Racing Club, the event will start at 3pm.
The first race was held in 1861 over two miles (3.219 km), however the course was shortened to 3,200 meters (1.988 mi) in 1972 when Australia adopted the metric system, reducing the distance by 18.688 meters (61.312 ft). The current record holder is Kingston Rule, who won 1990 race with a time of 3:16.3.
The Melbourne Cup is a “quality handicap” for horses 3 years old and over. In handicap contests, the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to meet a nominated figure. Older horses will carry more weight than younger ones, and weights are also adjusted according to the horse’s previous results. In the past, weights were calculated to give each horse an equal winning chance. However in recent years the rules have changed to a “quality handicap” formula, with superior horses given less severe weight penalties than under “pure handicap” rules.
The Melbourne Cup is known as “the race that stops a nation”, and with good reason as much of Australia grinds to a halt. At 3pm next Tuesday, there will be approximately two and a half million spectators watching on television. Race day is even designated as a public holiday for those working within metropolitan Melbourne and some parts of regional Victoria, illustrating the country’s ongoing fascination with the event. As with the Grand National in United Kingdom, it is the one time of year when even those with only a passing interest in horse racing will have a flutter.
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