The Melbourne Cup

Green Moon

The Melbourne Cup is the race that stops a nation.

Melbourne may be the only city in the world that has a public holiday around a thoroughbred horse race. Since 1861, the city has paused on the first Tuesday of November for this three-minute, 3,200 meter race. This year, 24 horses competed for the Cup and $6.2 million prize. Favorites included 2010 winner Americain and 2011 winner Dunaden, but in a stunning upset, Green Moon shone brighter and placed first. Americain and Dunaden placed 11th and 14th respectively.

The Melbourne Cup is part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, which is made up of 114 races between late September and mid-November, but there’s more to it than just racing. Off the track, there are lunches, cocktail parties, dinners, balls, and fashion parades. Ladies exchange their winter coats for bright spring dresses and elegant hats. Hats are so popular that the Carnival almost single-handedly keeps Melbourne’s milliners in business. Male fashion is not too shabby either.

Fashion at the Melbourne Cup. Photo by Jake Nowakowski.

I don’t follow horse racing, but the Melbourne Cup is unique in that it attracts people who are otherwise not interested in the sport and it’s one of the biggest betting events in Australia. I got into the spirit of it and watched the race with Theo and friends over bubbly and barbecue. I even bet $10 on Green Moon. Not bad for a beginner. Next year, I’ll wear a hat.

Do you follow horse racing? Did you watch the Melbourne Cup?