Melbourne Cup: ‘The race that stops a nation’

Source: Melbourne Cup race card (


The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s major annual thoroughbred horse race. Billed as ‘the race that stops a nation’, it is a race for horses aged three-years-old and over, and covers a distance of 3200 metres. The event has been held by the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) at Melbourne’s Flemington Racecourse in the first week of November since 1861. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious ‘two-mile’ handicap race in the world. Originally, the trophy was a gold watch, with a purse of 710 pounds. The current trophy (awarded since 1919) is a three handled gold loving cup worth $75,000 at 2005 prices.
*See what the first Melbourne Cup race would have looked like here.
For over a century, only two horses had won the Melbourne Cup twice: Archer (1861, 1862) and Peter Pan (1932, 1934). Bred in NSW in 1929, Peter Pan went out as the 4 -1 favourite in the 1932 Melbourne Cup before striking interference and appearing to go down. With a grass stain on his nose, he miraculously managed to regain his feet and come from the back of the field to win the race by a neck. Peter Pan’s 1934 Cup win was no less incredible. Hailed as one of the finest staying performances in Australian turf history, this champion of champions was carrying a top weight when he raced in mud up to his hocks to win by three lengths in one of the slowest times on record. Many Melbourne Cup winners have become part of Australian folklore.
While the Cup will continue to evolve, it remains the greatest 3200 metre handicap horse race anywhere in the world. To find out more about this great race, check out some book titles held at CSU by clicking here and searching ‘Melbourne Cup’.