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The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most prestigious annual Thoroughbred horse race. It is a 3,200 metre race for three-year-olds and over. It is the richest “two-mile” handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races. Conducted by the Victoria Racing Club on the Flemington Racecourse as part of the spring carnival in Melbourne, Victoria, the event starts at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November and is known locally as “the race that stops a nation”.
The event is one of the most popular spectator events in Australia, with sometimes over 110,000 people, some dressed in traditional formal raceday wear and others in all manner of exotic and amusing costumes, attending the race. The record crowd was 122,736 in 2003.
‘Fashions On The Field’ is a major focus of the day, with substantial prizes awarded for the best-dressed man and woman. The requirement for elegant hats, and more recently the alternative of a fascinator, almost single-handedly keeps Melbourne’s milliners in business. Raceday fashion has occasionally drawn almost as much attention as the race itself.
Flowers, especially roses are an important component of the week’s racing at Flemington. The racecourse has around 12,000 roses within its large expanse. Over 200 varieties of the fragrant flower are nurtured by a team of up to 12 gardeners. Each of the major racedays at Flemington has an official flower. Victoria Derby Day has the Corn Flower, Melbourne Cup Day is for the Yellow Rose, Oaks Day highlights the Pink Rose and Stakes Day goes to the Red Rose.
In the Melbourne metropolitan area, the race day has been a gazetted public holiday since 1877, In New Zealand, the Melbourne Cup is the country’s single biggest betting event, with carnival race-days held at several of the country’s top tracks showing the cup live on big screens.
It is commonly billed as The race that stops a nation.