The Melbourne Cup is more than just a horse race. It is a 155-year-old tradition turned international event that literally brings Australia to a standstill with loads of action on the race-track—where horses sprint for a coveted cup of gold—and in the grandstand where the passion for fashion comes into play
The Melbourne Cup Carnival
29 October—5 November 2016
When October swings around, the racing circuit is “abuzz” with excitement and the race courses are impeccably groomed and bursting with spring color as it is time for the Melbourne Cup Carnival, which begins 29 October and runs till 5 November. The carnival attracts more than 300,000 racegoers over four magical race-days.
Each day the evening news reports on the condition of the tracks, the condition of the horses, the favorite jockeys, trainers and of course the fashion stakes—they give the odds for the horses and everyone has an “opinion” on who is going to win.
Work sweepstakes are organised and it seems everyone, including the kids want to have a “flutter” on the Melbourne Cup.
But how did this all start?
In 1861 it all began and within 20 years, it was attracting crowds estimated at 100,000—a remarkable figure given the population at that time was just 290,000.
Each November, Melbourne is host to this event with the fever and excitement building each year. As the world shrinks due to globalisation and enhanced technology, word has spread of the huge prize money and world-class facilities attracting racegoers and entrants from across the globe.
In 1875, the Cup was, for the first time, run on the first Tuesday in November instead of a Thursday. The four days that make up the Melbourne Cup Carnival, have followed this format ever since.
The distinctive handmade gold three-handled loving cup awarded to the owner of the Emirates Melbourne Cup winner is one of the most recognisable trophies in world sport.
It is a far cry from the first trophy awarded to a Cup winner when in 1865 the owner of Toryboy received an elaborate silver bowl, which had been manufactured in England.
The Emirates Melbourne Cup trophy, in its current three-handled form, was first awarded in 1919 (won by Artilleryman).
In 1931 the size of the Cup was reduced slightly due to the Great Depression, and the new compact stature was retained in the years to follow. However, to celebrate the 150th running of the Cup in 2010, the trophy was returned to the original design and size of the 1930 Cup won by legendary racehorse Phar Lap.
Today the Emirates Melbourne Cup trophy is valued at A$175,000. The weight of the Emirates Melbourne Cup, including the base, is just under four kilograms, which includes 2,340 grams of solid 18 carat yellow gold. It takes more than 250 man-hours to produce the Emirates Melbourne Cup.
The Melbourne Cup was originally ordered through the jeweller Drummonds and manufactured by J W Steeth& Son. The original craftsman was James Steeth and later his son Morris assumed his role. Morris Steeth taught Lucky Rocha, who in 1970 took on the responsibility of creating the Melbourne Cup. From 1980 to 2015 the VRC has commissioned Hardy Brothers Jewellers to create the Melbourne Cup each year. The VRC appointed ABC Bullion to manufacture the Emirates Melbourne Cup from 2016, using gold that has been mined, refined, and crafted wholly in Australia for the first time in the race’s 155-year history.
(Source: VRC Media Information)
AAMI Victoria Derby Day
AAMI Victoria Derby Day is the first day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival and is said to be the day for racing purists.
The fashion stakes are equally high with the commencement of Myer Fashions on the Field.
This is the day for classic elegance that sets the pace for the entire week. It is the first opportunity for racegoers to parade their new Melbourne Cup Carnival outfits. Traditionally, black and white has been the prominent colour scheme for men and women, while many men choose to wear a grey morning suit, peacock vest and pin-stripe trousers.
The Melbourne Cup
This spectacular event stops the Nation and money is won and lost, careers are made and broken. Competitors come from across the globe to take part in this two mile race, with the prize purse being one of the world’s richest, offering A6.2 million (US4.6 million) in prize money. This race is truly an international event.
The Melbourne Cup is more than just a horse race; it is a 155-year-old social and cultural tradition that literally brings Australia to a standstill.
In 2015, Victoria’s own Prince of Penzance won the Emirates Melbourne Cup, elevating his jockey Michelle Payne into the history books as the first female jockey to win the race.
The popularity of this jockey has not diminished throughout the year, with her appearing regularly in the media and at events such as Moomba (Melbourne festival).
The Emirates Melbourne Cup is now broadcast into more than 160 territories, promoting the event and Melbourne around the globe to millions of people.
Crown Oaks Day
Crown Oaks Day (Thursday, 3 November) is the traditional ‘Ladies Day’ of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. It is a day when we dress to the hilt and head to the races with the girls. It is truly a day when the ladies can express themselves and feel a part of the fashion world.
Oh and of course, there are the horse races on the day, for those interested, however for the girls, it’s all about us.
Emirates Stakes Day—Carnival’s “family day”.
The Melbourne Cup Carnival concludes its festivities with Emirates Stakes Day. The day features two group one races; headlined by the A$2 million weight-for-age Emirates Stakes, as well as the scorching 1200m Darley Classic—a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.
The meeting, which features Emirates Stakes Day Fashions on the Field for children and families, has a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere and is recognised as the Carnival’s “family day”.
The final day of the Carnival is all about relaxed style and the opportunity for the young ones to shine. For some, it is the day to deck out the little ones in the latest junior fashions, while for others it is simply a day to have fun with friends and family.
Hundreds of children aged six to 17 compete in the Emirates Stakes Day Fashions on the Field each year, while families are now given the opportunity to compete in a dedicated Family Category.
While the undisputed heroes of the Melbourne Cup Carnival are the stars of the turf, the accompanying fashion frenzy that seizes Melbourne in spring is truly spectacular. Men and women alike relish the opportunity to dress in their finest race wear and head to Flemington as the racecourse becomes the place to see and be seen.
In 1962, the VRC Committee introduced a competition designed to ‘woo more women to the races’ during the Carnival. Today, Myer Fashions on the Field at Flemington is not just an institution of the Melbourne Cup Carnival; it has established its place as Australia’s largest and most prestigious outdoor fashion event. Myer Fashions on the Field—a Flemington icon that has been replicated the world over—is showing no sign of losing relevance after more than half a century.
Each year women (and more recently men) with a passion for fashion vie for a lavish prize pool, worth more than A$400,000, and a place in the social pages. The only tougher competition is on the racetrack.
On the Carnival’s fourth day, the Emirates Stakes Day Fashions on the Field competition offers children and families the opportunity to impress in the fashion stakes and claim fantastic prizes.
All photos: Getty Images