Interesting Facts about The Melbourne Cup

  • The Melbourne Cup is Australia's most famous horse race. The race always happens on the first Tuesday of November and it starts at 3 p.m. This is the 150th year that the Melbourne Cup will be run. So, you are here in Australia at a historic moment!

  • The Melbourne Cup takes place in (yes, you guessed it!) Melbourne at the Flemington Racecourse. Horses have to be three years or older to take part.

  • The Melbourne Cup is known as "The race that stops a nation." That's because just about every person in Australia stops doing whatever they are doing to drink beer or champagne and listen to or watch the race.

  • A recent survey calculated that the Melbourne Cup costs the Australian economy over $ 1 billion in lost work. That's because no-one does much work on the afternoon of the race (not even English students) and it’s a public holiday in Victoria. But who cares! It's lots of fun and an excuse for Australians everywhere to have a party.

  • Australians love to gamble on any day and especially on the day of the Melbourne Cup. The "sweep" (sweepstakes) is particularly popular where each person puts in some money and they are given a randomly chosen horse. The person with the winning horse wins all the money. Then they get to buy everyone drinks!

  • The Melbourne Cup is not really about horse racing at all! It's about having fun and drinking champagne and eating canapés and looking beautiful in the latest fashions. It's one big fashion parade and it's all about being noticed. And often the most popular way to do that is to wear a huge, exotic looking hat.

  • Sometimes the fashions at the Melbourne Cup influence what people wear all over Australia and even in other parts of the world. In 1965, everyone remembers when Jean Shrimpton, a model from England, wore a miniskirt. The skirt went just above her knees (shocking in those days!) and caused a worldwide sensation. Soon everyone was wearing them.

  • The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861 and was won by a horse called "Archer." Archer lived in Nowra in New South Wales so he had to walk 800 km's just to get to the start of the race! Seventeen horses took part and the prize was a gold watch and £170 ($ 300).

  • In today's race, 24 horses will take part and the prize money is $ 7.7 million and $ 4.5 million of that goes to the winning horse. Even if you come 10th, you get $ 160,000. Over 100,000 people will attend the race.

  • The Melbourne Cup is one of the most difficult and challenging races in the world. The race is run over 3,200 metres and it is a handicapped race. This means that the better the horse is, the more weight it has to carry in the race. In the 1890's there was a particularly strong horse called Carbine who won many races. He had to carry a weight of over 66 kg in the Melbourne Cup (that doesn't even include the jockey) and yet he still won the race!

  • Only four horses have won the Melbourne Cup twice and only one horse (Makybe Diva in 2003) has won it three times. The distance and the handicap make it very difficult to predict who will win the Melbourne Cup. Any horse can win. Who knows, maybe it will be your horse than wins the race today. Good luck! And if you win, remember to buy your teacher a beer.

Phar Lap

  • Phar Lap is Australia's most famous racehorse. Every Australian knows his name. He raced in 51 races and he won 37 of those. He became the darling of the Australian crowds during the Great Depression and he won the Melbourne Cup in 1930, carrying nearly 63 kg.

  • The one thing that Australians do not want you to know is that Phar Lap was actually a Kiwi. Yes, he was actually born in New Zealand. Better not to mention it though!

  • In 1932 Phar Lap was sent to Mexico to take part in a big race. But 16 days after arriving in Mexico, Phar Lap suddenly died. No-one knows why. Many people believe that Phar Lap was poisoned by the "bookies" because they were worried they were going to lose money if Phar Lap won the race.

  • After Phar Lap's death, his bones were sent back to New Zealand and his hide was put in the Victorian Museum. His heart was put in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

  • Phar Lap's heart was enormous - nearly twice the size of a normal horse! Since then, the expression "You have the heart of Phar Lap" has become Australian slang for "You should be very proud" or "You are very brave."

Reading Tasks

Task 1: Read the text. What do you think is the most interesting fact about the Melbourne Cup?

Task 2: For each sentence, say if it is true (T), false (F) or don't know (DK)

  1. Any horse can take part in the Melbourne cup.
  2. The Melbourne Cup is a public holiday in most parts of Australia.
  3. Most Australians attend or watch the Melbourne Cup because they love horse racing.
  4. Jean Shrimpton, an Australian model, caused a sensation when she wore a miniskirt to the Melbourne Cup. The skirt was very short.
  5. The first Melbourne cup was won by a horse from New South Wales.
  6. Prize money is only given to the first, second and third horse.
  7. The winner of the first Melbourne Cup won only a gold watch.
  8. Many of the horses in the Melbourne Cup have to carry extra weights.
  9. Makybe Diva has won the Melbourne Cup four times.
  10. If you win the Sweepstakes, you have to buy your teacher a beer.
  11. Phar Lap won over 80% of his races.
  12. Phar Lap was born close to Sydney.
  13. Phar Lap died because someone poisoned him.

Source: Facts sourced from a number of different webs sites