So today is Melbourne Cup day, and even though I've only been in Australia a few years, I've been lucky enough to get to the race twice. In fact two years ago I did a down and back in a day which made me feel quite the celeb. I don't know why I thought this because real celebs wouldn't have been slumming back to theBut in Sydney, the city is awash with parties, lunches, crowds going to the empty racecourse to watch the race on the tellie. Hair dressers close, office sweeps are run, school mums do pickups in glam frocks with that extra half glass of champers glow to their cheeks. Yessirree, it's Race Day in Australia.
airport at 6pm, they wouldn't have been walking through the semi deserted Qantas terminal in bare feet. Then squishing swollen feet back into high heels to look slightly respectable when going into the Qantas Lounge. Their champagne buzz wouldn't have worn off quietly on the flight back home to be replaced with a monster head ache. And they wouldn't have got home to pay the babysitter (sitting watching the Simpson's at 9pm) an exorbitant price for the day's sitting. Nope, not too much glamour in that scenario.
And thanks to a child with a sore throat, I will not be having the lovely lunch that I was invited to, I will not be wearing a nice dress and my flowery fascinator, I will have no champagne glow. I will be wearing my trackies to pick up my kids, I will (maybe) watch the race on the 6pm news at night. Do I sound a little bitter and twisted?
So what is the origins of the Melbourne Cup, what do we know about the race that stops a nation?
The Melbourne Cup is Australia's most famous horse race, and is truly the "race, that stops a nation".
It is now the richest handicap in the world, worth some $6 million and attracts in excess of 100,000 racegoers to the Flemington racecourse. The race is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3,200 metres. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world. The event is held on the first Tuesday in November by the Victoria Racing Club, on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. This day is a public holiday in the state of Victoria and the ACT. Every year, Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race brings vast crowds of spectators to the Flemington Racecourse and millions watch from home.
The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861, with 17 horses competing. The prize was £170, and rather than a cup, the winner received a hand-beaten gold watch. The crowd that first year was around about 4,000 people and the winner was a Walking Horse from New South Wales known as Archer. As legend has it, Archer walked the 800 kilometers between Nowra (NSW) and Melbourne before the race.
Phar Lap would be considered one of the greatest winners of the Melbourne Cup (1930), along with Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005) and Bart Cummings, the most successful trainer in the Cup's history. Traditionally the Melbourne Cup has been almost as famous for the party atmosphere as it has the actual horse racing. In fact back in 1895, American writer Mark Twain said of a visit to the Melbourne Cup
"Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me."
And we all know that ladies should keep their shoes on at all costs, nothing screams trampy more than barefeet at Flemington. I hope that rule doesn't extend to airports as well!
See, I'm too grumpy to even close this off properly.