It remains The Race That Stops A Nation.
It’s changed a lot over its 158-year history, and presents an enormous punting challenge in its current state. But nobody can deny the race’s status: it’s still the one race of the year that the entire country – even those who barely know one end of a horse from the other – sit up and take notice.
You could write a book on all the stories surrounding the Cup. Indeed, plenty of people have! But for now, we’ve whittled in down to just a few of our favourite editions…
1890: Weight Of The World
Carbine is a legend of Australian racing, and it’s not hard to see why when you look at his 1890 Cup-winning effort.
Long before the days of limited field sizes, Carbine took on 38 other starters, and won with what remains – 128 years later – the heaviest weight ever carried by a winner: an eye-watering 10 stone, 5 pounds (66kg). It was a staggering 24kgs more than Highborn, which ran second.
And despite the weight, he won in 3 minutes 28.25 seconds, which was a record for the Cup at the time. The record stood for another 15 years.
1930: The Legend
There’s no bigger name in Australian racing than Phar Lap, and the 1930 Cup is considered by many his crowning achievement. He’d ran third in 1929 as a three-year-old (three days after winning the Derby), and come the 1930 Cup was in the middle of a 14 race winning streak.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing however… he was controversially scratched from the Caulfield Cup, infuriating punters who’d backed him heavily for the Caulfield – Melbourne Cup double. Some accused trainer Harry Telford of shady dealings with bookmakers.
Then, on the Saturday morning prior to the Cup, unknown assailants in a car shot at Phar Lap in Caulfield as strapper Tommy Woodcock returned him to his stables after a brief workout. The shots missed, and an unfazed Phar Lap went to Flemington that afternoon and won the Melbourne Stakes (now Mackinnon Stakes).
He was then secretly whisked away to a quiet farm outside of Geelong for his own protection, playing havoc with his routine. Nevertheless, he returned to Flemington on Tuesday as the (still) shortest priced favourite in Cup history, at 8-11 ($1.72). He duly did the job for ecstatic punters, bounding away to win with ease.
For good measure, after Derby Day and the Cup, Phar Lap ran on Oaks Day (winning over a mile), and again on Stakes Day (winning over 2400 metres). In the space of 48 days, he’d run in and won the Chelmsford Stakes, Hill Stakes, Spring Stakes, Craven Plate, Randwick Plate, Cox Plate, Melbourne Stakes, Melbourne Cup, Linlithgow Stakes and the CB Fisher Plate – ten races.
Rain Lover had won the 1968 Cup in stunning style, marching Carbine’s record winning margin of eight lengths, and setting a then-record time of 3 minutes, 19.1 seconds.
High drama would meet his attempt to go back-to-back, with Bart Cummings’ favourite Big Philou scratched just 40 minutes before the race on vet’s advice. Cummings suspected foul play, and decades later a former stable employee admitted he’d nobbled the horse with laxatives on race morning – though he never revealed who paid him to do it.
As for Rain Lover, he’d become the first horse since Archer, more than 100 years earlier, to win back-to-back Cups – lugging over 60kgs to do it.
1983: Kiwi From Nowhere
Kiwi started at 10-1 in 1983, with Jim Cassidy given the strictest of instructions – ride him cold and just “be in touch” at the clocktower.
The tactics turned out to be genius, and the New Zealander came from second-last to weave through the field. Cassidy swung him wide late to get over the top in what is perhaps the greatest come-from-behind effort in Cup history.
1997: By A Nose
Might And Power would start favourite in 1997 after his incredible blitz in the Caulfield Cup. He led in trademark freewheeling style, and had seen off all comers by the 200-metre mark, leading by two lengths. Then came an almighty run from 1995 Cup winner Doriemus, who must have passed Might And Power mere centimetres after the post.
Greg Hall on Doriemus went wild, saluting in victory, but the photo would show Might And Power had held on in one of the closest finishes in Cup history.
2005: The Diva Three-Peats
What really needs to be said? Just over a week after winning the Cox Plate, the Diva becomes the first horse in history to win an incredible three Melbourne Cups.
Never say never… but the odds of ever seeing this again must be very, very slim.
2006: Japan’s One-Two Punch
Two Japanese raiders arrived in 2006. Pop Rock was the form horse, having won his past four starts back home, including the Group 2 Meguro Kinen over 2500m. His travel companion, Delta Blues, was less fancied. He had plenty of strong performances behind him, but his more recent form didn’t have the locals paying too much notice.
Both attacked the Caulfield Cup and put in enormous runs with close to no luck. Delta Blues was still finding ground as he ran into a close third behind Tawqeet, while Poprock fought on through the mob to finish just a few places back.
Punters still didn’t pay enough attention, but a couple of weeks later they quinella’d the Melbourne Cup, with Delta Blues taking the win ahead of his compatriot in a dominant Japanese showing.
2015: Back Weir, Drink Cognac
You’d probably call this one… eventful.
The race was an absolute mess in the straight, with interference everywhere and multiple horses thrown off their run – visitors Jamie Spencer and Frankie Dettori would be charged with careless riding.
Emerging from the trouble was Prince Of Penzance: he’d become the fourth horse to win the race at odds of 100-1, Michelle Payne would become the first female jockey to win the race, and it proved a crowning moment for the trainer who would soon become a runaway juggernaut.
Cam loves the Spring racing season and the last 12 months have been no exception, finding Rekindling (2017 Melbourne Cup) and Best Solution (2018 Caulfield Cup) at double-figure prices.
There is still time to cash in on that yourself, with a massive Melbourne Cup week ahead.
Don’t get left behind – make this Flemington Carnival a winning one.