The Melbourne Cup is held on the first Tuesday in November and is one of the most famous horse races in the world. The day is celebrated with a public holiday for the state of Victoria.
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Note: Melbourne Cup Day is observed in all of Victoria unless an alternate local holiday has been arranged by a non-metro council.
Since 1861, the Melbourne Cup has been an official race day and, since 1877, a public holiday in Victoria. Around the nation, most of the population stops to bet on the race and watch it on TV.
The Melbourne Cup, the race that ‘stops a nation’, runs over 3,200 metres at Flemington Racecourse and is for no more than 24 horses that are over three years old. On the day it’s difficult to know if the public holiday is about the horse race or if it’s about the hats and fashion. High society mixes with everyone else and the full-day event has also become known as an urban fashion parade.
Although only Victoria takes the day off, around the country most businesses stop for the 3pm (AEDST) race and share ‘office sweepstakes’, champagne and lunch. Many people who don’t normally bet, get into the spirit of the day and buy a two-dollar office sweepstakes ticket on a random horse. In towns and cities across Australia, restaurants are filled with social and family groups taking the opportunity to celebrate the culture of our nation and a mid-week break from normal activities.
On the track, tension is high between owners, trainers, jockeys and punters. Many foreign horses now enter the race. Prize money is over 6-million dollars with the first ten past the post receiving winnings but, no matter the outcome, the atmosphere on Melbourne Cup Day in Australia is always electric.