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Melbourne Cup Trophy: Australia Stops for a Horse Race

Updated on November 21, 2011

Melbourne Cup Day - Its Nothing About the Horses

Statutory, or paid holidays are generally reserved for really important religious events e.g. Christmas or other significant National events such as ANZAC Day or Australia Day. In Australia though there is an exception: its called Melbourne Cup Day. On the first Tuesday in November the nation stops: and watches a - horse race!

For those of you who aren't Australian, the Melbourne Cup is Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race. it is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3,200 metres. The Melbourne Cup is run by the Victoria Racing Club, on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. This day was traditionally only a public holiday within metropolitan Melbourne, but is now also observed as a holiday in the ACT as well so the politicians can have the day off officially.

The rest of the nation just takes their tellies to work: though these days you can of course just dial into the internet live. The race is run at 3:10pm local time which means that at least in New Zealand the drinking starts around 5pm. In Perth, in the far west, of course its only lunch time

Melbourne Cup Trophy Photo: Julian Chavez, flickr
Melbourne Cup Trophy Photo: Julian Chavez, flickr

Melbourne Cup and Drinking

You can't be a teetotaller at the races. Its illegal - at least in Austarlia, or at least very cutlurally insensitive. Traditionally Melbourne Cup was always accommapanied by a lot of beer. These days though champagn is the drink of choice. Drinking is required before, during and after the race, regardless of the outcome of you your bet

Photo: Bring Back Buck via Flickr
Photo: Bring Back Buck via Flickr

Melbourne Cup and the Office Sweepstake

Horse racing is all about gambling. The Melbourne Cup is all about the office sweepstake - another treasured Australian tradtion. Every newspaper in the country will publish a huge liftout including every starter, their colours, their form, jockey etc, etc. The only bit that is important is the colour of the jockey - I find by choosing the prettiest colours I can invariably loose my $5 anyway and feel good about it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Melbourne Cup and Fashion

Recently along with the drinking and the gambling, Melbourne Cup has become a bit of an excuse to dress up. Its useful because it gives the TV cameras something to look at while waiting for The Race to start. It also gives the rest of Autsralia a chance to dress up. The fashion in the field event was originally started to encourage more women to come to the races. Now its

Traditionally Australians are more into beach attire than cocktail dresses and hats but on Melbourne Cup Day you will see some quite well dressed drunks out of the streets.

At the Flemington race track the Fashion in the Field event is now huge and includes both children's and mens sections, though of course the women's fashions dominate. Thanks to the sponsors the prizes are substantial and rather sweetly its still possible for amateurs to win.

Australia's Celebration of Gambling, Drinking and Fashion

Well the English have Ascot - but to be fair Australia and New Zealand's Melbourne Cup is built on a more democractic tradition.

Even back in the 1860's when the Melbourne Cup was first run, Flemington was one of the few times that all levels of society could freely mix. Austrlaia takes it a step further making it a paid holiday for Vidtoria and ACT and a paid afternoon or so off in the rest of the country.

While Americans may be shocked at the concept of drinking officially sanctioned in the work place: its a long standing tradition in Australia and New Zealand. Although New Zealand doesn't have an offiicial holiday they often contribute the horse that actually wins the event - a great source of National Pride.

So if you are planning on being in Australia on the first Tuesday in November at around 3pm AEDT (2pm Queensland, 1pm Western Australia, 2:30pm Darwin and Adeliade or 5pm in NZ) find yourself a pub and check out this great Australian tradition.

And even if you hate sports: the whole race takes only 2 or 3 minutes!

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    • eddygame profile image

      eddygame 

      9 years ago from England

      I love the Melbourne Cup, but I think it's topped by the Grand National any day!

    • profile image

      2009 Melbourne Cup 

      9 years ago

      Hi Lissie

      Great Hub!

      Only 8 weeks until the 2009 Melbourne Cup kicks off!!! Excitement plus!

      Bring on the champers!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      I'll have a glass of champagn for you - Cheers!

    • Leisa St Ledger profile image

      Leisa St Ledger 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Fantastic Hub Lissie - I love the Melbourn cup. Only wish I was down there to enjoy it this year!

    • ajcor profile image

      ajcor 

      10 years ago from NSW. Australia

      Hi Lissie - another great hub - re. the people of China liking horse racing - their liking caused an upset a number of years ago when the Australian horse racing stewards actually changed the time of the race to suit the betting fraternity of Hong Kong - thereby really causing angst amongst australian mothers who had to collect their children from school at the new time so missing out on seeing the race- their race!!!. Bet Well. cheers

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      We haven't had any decent rain here for about 3 months, and we are only on tank water where we live getting pretty low!. Christmas not a good time for Nullabor,Train's the only way to go, you should have a ball!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Perth - we drove for 35000km starting in Brisbane: got as far as Perth! Liked the beach and the weather but couldn't quite face the Nullabor so we have been here for a year. We are going 2 face the Nullabor at Christmas: crazy I know: drive 1 way train back . Meanwhile we hang out at the beach: though it didn't actually rain today shock!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Perth - we drove for 35000km starting in Brisbane: got as far as Perth! Liked the beach and the weather but couldn't quite face the Nullabor so we have been here for a year. We are going 2 face the Nullabor at Christmas: crazy I know: drive 1 way train back . Meanwhile we hang out at the beach: though it didn't actually rain today shock!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      where is here at the moment?

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Its OK I won't tell anyone - there's not too many Ozzies here so you will probably retain your citzenship! Taupo is still pretty but you wouldn't recognise it today with all the new developments around the lake. I think the south island has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world - I keep on meaning to do some more NZ hubs.. Maybe you've inspired me!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      I discovered NZ in about 1970 when I was sent there for work, and begrudging I'll admit I found them to be great people and fell in love with the place, especially Lake Toupo (? spelling) . Got caught the first night when the girl at the reception desk asked me if I wanted "sex" . I said to my friend , these girls are friendly aren't they. He said "no you idiot thats the room number!!!"

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Yeah I saw that in the local paper - got picked up in NZ too: I think it might numbers of people leaving the country: my guess is that a lot of them are NZers. I'm not going home until the weather improves! Though if they were silly enough to live in Melbourne I can understand why you'd think the weather was better in NZ! Actually I think NZ and Australia will come out of the current world crises quite well. Our last big property boom started with 911 which drove a lot of immigration to NZ. Of course again quite often its expats going home not actual foreigners coming to NZ.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

       I nearly got tricked with John Clark, it wasn't that long ago I found out he was a kiwi!

      Yeah anyone that took Piggy for a fool was no mug!

      I think I read somewhere recently that more aussies are moving to NZ than kiwis are coming here? Have you heard anything about that? 

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Your most famous cross-dresser is an entertainer: NZ's most famous transgender person is an MP: Georgina Beyer - says it all really LOL We gave you Joh Beilkie Peterson as well (can't spell it)! As our famous prime minister: Muldoon said: every Kiwi that leaves and goes to Australia raises the IQ's of both countries! Oh you got John Clark too - he's one of ours and a very very good comedian, he does the Aussie accent pretty good now too.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Yeah OK youv'e got your haka, but we have got, hmmm who have we got, hmmm Russel Crow (no hes a Kiwi) hmmm Mel Gibson (no hes a Yank)

      I know !!!!!!!

      Wev'e got Dame Edna,   ta da!!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      LOL agvulpes: we know you are just jealous! And scared of the haka. For others who have no idea what we are talking about check out; https://hubpages.com/sports/Rugby---New-Zealands-N...

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Hi Lissie , at least we don't dress up and do some silly little dance before we start a footy game. (Wispers, yeah we do luv yas)

      Tottie:- go Aussie P|)

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      I'm sure the Chinese will understand Tottie - they are crazy about horse racing! Hope you are dressing up too! Have great day!

    • Tottie profile image

      Tottie 

      10 years ago from Australia , or China, or South Korea.

      Here's an Aussie that will miss the Melbourne Cup in Australia this year. But I will celebrate with the other Aussie teachers at our university in China. No champagne probably but some wine, some funny hats, and a Cup Sweep!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      agvulpes - you have a bit of cheek - especially coming from a country that has a religion around a game you erroneously call football, which you need four (4) goal posts cause the ozzies can't figure out where to kick the balll LOL I must admit that's quite a literate comment for an ozzie!

      Thats a cool song for a funeral- what a clever idea! I wooldn't mind going out to that !

      The unions are calling for Melburne Cup day to be a public holiday in WA - lazy buggers, we got rid of all that sort of crap in NZ decades ago.

      (Note to all non-Australiasians reading this: NZers and Ausralians love each other really we just don't admit it in public)

      Thanks for visiting!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      Hey Amanda, you want laid back. A few months back my dear brother in law passed away much loved by all. (no thats not the laid back bit, well in a way it is.)

      His wife (my sister) organised the funeral which was reasonably conventional and solemn, but here it comes. She had them play "Hit the Road Jack" by Ray Charles as the coffin was removed. First time Iv'e ever seen people laugh like that at a funeral.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 

      10 years ago from Australia

      G'day Lissie, Thats not a horse race its THE HORSERACE a religion!. Not a bad hub from a non ozzie. just a few tips though .

      At cricket we like to think we are VERY annoying to upstart teams like the Kiwis and the Poms. After our effort the other day the Indians are OK. Even Ponting said they played like the Aussies!

      If a horse ran the cup in two minutes I believe it would be banned for life because its had a rocket rammed up its clacker!

      Just another tip you might like to pass on to your readers get them to ask for a "Cup Sweep" Sweepstakes is so pommie!

      LOL very tongue in cheek just taking the p... from a chum from across the ditch.

      AVAgooday!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for commenting Amanda: yes the Aussies can be annoying, usually when they are winning at cricket (again), but you have to admire a country which can stop for a horse race!

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      10 years ago from UK

      Sounds like fun! We have a similarly popular race held annually at Aintree, Liverpool, called the Grand National which is keenly followed by young and old, and is usually the subject of many an office sweepstake. Unfortunately our government hasn't seen fit so far to make the event a public holiday, but it's still a great national sporting event.

      Australia always sounds like such a fun, laid-back place to live!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for visiting lupo - it is funny when you see a celebration as a traveler and don't quite know what's going on - which was the point of view I was taking for this hub so its cool I touched some memories! We were in Perth too last year but out in the suburbs and didn't really notice it! It stretches all the way from Perth to New Zealand - about 7 hours flying time!

    • profile image

      lupo 

      10 years ago

      I was in Perth last year during the Melbourne Cup. I was leaving the city after being there for a few days and was on my way north, driving to Eneabba. I had to go right through the city and, after running around picking up some supplies, ending up trying to get out of there in the afternoon. My wife and I could not figure out why there was so much traffic and why there were so many people walking around. Many folks had funny hats on and plenty of people also appeared to be quite drunk.

      The next day we found out all about the Melbourne Cup. It turns out the crowds we saw were because the race had finished and everyone was leaving their respective Cup parties. It was funny to have caught but a glimpse of what was obviously such a festive party. We originally had thought there was some local sporting event going on....only to find out the event was watched, celebrated, and enjoyed all across the country!

      Thanks for the interesting post and for stirring my own Melbourne Cup memories of a year ago.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      LOL Mulder - its the first time Ive actually been working in Australia on the day - so I am hoping for some free champers! My partner works for Racing and Wagering WA and had the day off as the space is needed for a special event LOL

    • mulder profile image

      mulder 

      10 years ago from Warnbro Western Australia

      I forgot to add have you anything planned for that day ?

    • mulder profile image

      mulder 

      10 years ago from Warnbro Western Australia

      oh yes Lissie nothing beats a bet on the melbourne cup the race that stop a nation . Have any raceing tips for me My horse aways seem to running when the race is way finshed lol great hub

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