The Melbourne Cup Carnival is undoubtedly one of the world’s most renowned and successful horseracing events, attracting more than 300,000 racegoers to Flemington over four days each year.
The Lexus Melbourne Cup, a 3200m Group 1 staying race, is one of the world’s richest, offering A$8 million in prize money. It is the world’s richest handicap race and the world’s richest 3200m (two mile) race. Unsurprisingly it draws competitors from across the globe with the annual invasion of northern hemisphere-trained stayers making it a truly international event.
But is much more than just a horse race; it is a 158-year-old social and cultural tradition that literally brings Australia to a standstill.
The Lexus Melbourne Cup is universally known in Australia as ‘the race that stops a nation’TM, because almost the entire country stops to watch or listen to the race at 3pm (Australian EDT) on the first Tuesday of each November. Remarkably, Lexus Melbourne Cup Day is even a public holiday in its home city, while the day before the race the city streets are closed for a parade celebrating the race’s trainers and jockeys – such is the significance of the race to Melburnians.
The recent history of the Lexus Melbourne Cup is characterised by a phenomenon of incredible internationalisation since Ireland’s Vintage Crop won the race in 1993.
In 2015, Victoria’s own Prince of Penzance won the race, elevating his rider Michelle Payne into the history books as the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. In 2017, owner Lloyd Williams clinched a record sixth Melbourne Cup when Rekindling beat another of Mr Williams’ horses, Johannes Vermeer. In 2018, Godolphin and Great Britain broke through for their first Lexus Melbourne Cup win as Cross Counter secured victory for trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey Kerrin McEvoy.
The Lexus Melbourne Cup is now broadcast into more than 160 territories, promoting the event and Melbourne around the globe to an audience of hundreds of millions.
Heritage-listed Flemington hosts seven other Group 1 races during its four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival, which creates a celebratory atmosphere unparalleled at any other world sporting event.
While a racing event at its core, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is an annual celebration that combines the very best of what Melbourne has to offer – food and wine, sport, entertainment, business, social interaction and fashion.
More than 34% of the 303,587 attendees at the 2018 Melbourne Cup Carnival were from outside of Victoria, with the Carnival injecting A$447.6 million of gross economic benefit into the state’s economy.
In 2018, Melbourne Cup Carnival racegoers spent A$35.4 million on almost 358,000 fashion items to wear to the Melbourne Cup Carnival. In total, 55,433 hats and fascinators, 49,559 dresses, 54,821 pairs of shoes, 21,782 handbags, 17,988 shirts and 19,089 suits were purchased specifically to wear to the four days at Flemington, highlighting the event’s importance to the local retail and fashion industries.
The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) at Flemington is the world’s largest member-based racing club, with more than 30,000 members.