The History of the Melbourne Cup

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

At 3.00 pm AEST, on the first Tuesday of November, Australians across the country stop for one of the world’s most famous horse races – the Melbourne Cup. Even those who don’t usually bet often try their luck in a sweepstake – a lottery in which each entrants are matched randomly with a horse. Panda Sweeps can offer you fun, fast and free sweepstakes for tons of major sporting events! And if you’re still undecided, we’re certain that the 153 year history of the Melbourne Cup will whet your sporting appetite! Sit back, relax and fall in love with the endearing and magical history of Australia’s most beloved horse race.


1861: The first Melbourne Cup is held on a Thursday at Flemington race track and won by the horse Archer. Archer was from Nowra, New South Wales, and beat the local favourite, Mormon. He collected £170 and a gold watch for his efforts. Legend has it that Archer walked around 800km from his stables in NSW to Melbourne. By comparison, the winner of the 2013 Melbourne Cup will pocket a cool $3,600,000! And around half of the horses competing would have been flown in from overseas.

1869: The Victorian Racing Club makes the race a part of a four-day Spring Racing Carnival event.

1876: The race is changed to run on the first Tuesday of November instead of a Thursday. An Australian-made gold cup is presented to the owner of winning three-year-old filly Briseis. She also won the Derby and the Oak races at the carnival!

1877: Cup Day is made a public holiday in the state of Victoria. By 11am on the first holiday, the Flemington grandstand was packed to its 7,000 capacity and, by 3pm, 100,000 people had made the journey to Flemington to attend the Cup. Melbourne’s population at that time was only 290,000, so an attendance of this magnitude is pretty amazing! Many visitors came from across the country and other Australian colonies. The state of Victoria was experiencing its gold rush at this time, so many people had flocked to Melbourne in the hope of finding some gold of their own!


1890: Three Melbourne Cup records are broken in this year. Two of those by the legendary horse Carbine, carrying an all-time record weight of 10st 5lbs, Carbine set a track record which has stood for 15 years. The third record was the number of starters – 39 horses featured in the 1890 Melbourne Cup.

1896: The first Australian moving pictures are taken of the Melbourne Cup being won by the three-year-old colt Newhaven.

1919: A goldsmith from Melbourne named James Steeth makes the first version of the three-handled gold loving cup.

1925: The Australian Broadcasting Coorporation (the ABC) provides live coverage of the Melbourne Cup.

1930: For the first time ever, the Melbourne Cup is televised by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, making it the first sport to be covered! This year, one horse captured the public’s hearts with his rise to success – the mighty Phar Lap. This four-year-old was so good that race officials changed the weight-for-age scale to make the field more even. But this didn’t stop Phar Lap. He won the Melbourne Cup and won a race on each of the other three days of the Carnival.

1942: The Cup Day public holiday is suspended due to the ongoing war. The cup is instead held on the third Saturday in November, with war savings bond certificates replacing the trophy.

1960: The 100th Cup takes place. The ceremony is celebrated with record prize money and a fashion contest.

1962: Fashions on the Field takes place at the Cup for the first time ever to attract a wider crowd, including celebrities.


1972: Australia adopts the metric system. The race takes place over 3200 metres instead of 2 miles.

1985: The Melbourne Cup is sponsored for the first time.

1996: The Victorian Racing Club honours Bart Cummings, who, since 1965, trained a record number of Melbourne Cup Winning horses. By this point, he had won 12 Melbourne Cups and, more impressive still, trained the runners-up in five of those races – an astonishing accomplishment for the ‘Melbourne Cup King’, as he has been rightly nicknamed.

2002: Never has there been a more worthy winning of the Melbourne Cup than Damien Oliver. He rode the horse Media Puzzle to victory, just days after his brother, Jason, died in a racetrack accident in Perth. He told an interviewer post-race “Melbourne Cups don’t mean a thing to me anymore. I’d give it back right now to have my brother back.” In the true spirit of the Cup, he dedicated the win to his brother.

2003: The legend of Makybe Diva finds its origins here, with the horse securing her first win of the Melbourne Cup in front of a record crowd of 122,736. She is the only horse ever to win three Melbourne Cups and she achieved this in consecutive years. Makybe Diva’s trainer, following her historic third win in 2005, was quoted as saying: “Go and find the smallest child on the racecourse, because he might be the only one to see it happen again.”

2010: The 150th Cup. A year-long celebration is held, including an eight month international tour to more than 40 destinations across the world.


The Melbourne Cup has such a remarkable 154 year old history, with champion horses, jockeys, trainers and races which have resulted in great stories of endurance, strength, controversy and heroism. It is one of the most highly bet on races in the world, so do not miss out being part of the international phenomenon that is the Melbourne Cup. Rally up your work colleagues and friends, then become a part of our fantastic sweepstakes!

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