Glenloth, Winner of the 1892 Melbourne Cup
Glenloth, Winner of the 1892 Melbourne Cup Victoria State Library

Four things you never knew about the Melbourne Cup

ARE you an expert or a novice? Do you follow the odds, or put your hand in the hat for your annual flutter?

The Melbourne Cup is galloping up fast, and we're here with all the information you could need ahead of the big race, whether you're all about the horses or just enjoy the big hats.

Check out our Ultimate Melbourne Cup Guide for everything you need for the big day

To honour Australia's premiere racing event, we are putting on our fascinators and morning coats to bring you some facts to throw around before the big day.


Here are some things you might not know about Australia's most famous race:

1. It stopped Australia long before Australia existed

The Melbourne Cup is not just the race that stops the nation on the first Tuesday of November each year, it has existed long before there was even a nation to stop.

Aboard the First Fleet when it landed in January 1788 was a stallion, four mares a colt and a filly. Our horse history runs alongside the arrival of Europeans.

By 1835, Melbourne settlers had marked out a horse track, with bullock carts as grandstands and a coat rack as the finish line.

By 1840, the race had become a three-day event in Flemington. By 1861, the Victoria Turf Club took over and ran the first Melbourne Cup in November, still four decades before Australia would become a Federation in 1901.

2. The first Melbourne Cup was a brutal event

Norman Lindsay's
Norman Lindsay's "Going to the Melbourne Cup", dated 1904 Contributed

ARCHER was the first horse to win the Melbourne Cup, and it would go on to defend its title the following year.

But even before the national spotlight was on the event, these races always put a lot of pressure on the contenders.

In the first race, three of the 17 horses fell during the race, two of which died.

Another horse bolted before the start.

When preparing to win a third Cup, Archer was scratched on a technicality. Another seven horses also forfeited as owners scratched their competitors in sympathy.

Phar Lap might be a legend, but he is not the only record holder
The legend of Phar Lap still looms large when the Melbourne Cup rolls around, but he is the not the record holder you might expect.

The best time ever set at the Melbourne cup was 3:16:3 by Kingston Rule in 1990.

The Cup's first winning horse Archer, still has a tied record for biggest win, dominating the competition by eight lengths in 1862. Rain Lover did the same in 1968.

Makybe Diva has the most Cup wins with three from 2003 to 2005

Phar Lap's claim to fame is winning the Cup as the shortest price favourite in the race's history at 11/8 odds on in 1930.

In attempted shooting meant he was kept away from the track at Geelong.

We've come a long way since the winner took home gold sovereigns

Melbourne Cup winners from 1861 - 1902
Melbourne Cup winners from 1861 - 1902

The famous actual cup of the Melbourne Cup was introduced in 1919.

Half a century earlier, the Melbourne Cup's first winner Archer earned a gold watch a 710 gold sovereigns for coming first.

Legend has it Archer walked 500 miles from Terara to enter the race.

In 1980, the Melbourne Cup was Australia's first horse race to offer a $1 million prize.

When the race begins next Tuesday, the winner will earn a cool $6.2 million.

Not bad for less than four minutes work, huh?

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