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The Melbourne Cup: Australia’s Most Famous Horse Race

The current year is rapidly approaching its end, which means thousands upon thousands of horse racing fans are gearing up for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, Kentucky. The Breeders’ Cup is the biggest race on the calendar for many horse racing aficionados, but there is a massive race scheduled only a couple of days before the 39th edition of North America’s premier thoroughbred horse racing event, and it takes place at the opposite side of the world.

Inaugurated in 1861, some 161 years ago, the Melbourne Cup is undoubtedly Australia’s most famous annual horse race. The Melbourne Cup is part of the Melbourne Springs Racing Carnival, held annually in November, and is known locally as “the race that stops the nation.” Australians residing in Melbourne, Victoria, enjoy a public holiday during the 3,200-metre race, which sees three-years and older thoroughbreds battle it out on the flat at the Victoria Racing Club on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Since its launch, the Melbourne Cup has grown in size and stature and is now the richest two-mile handicap in the world and one of the richest turf races globally.

Famous Melbourne Cup Winners

The Melbourne Cup first ran in 1861 and saw John Cutts ride Archer home to victory. The same pairing triumphed in 1862, Archer romping home five seconds faster than the previous year, thus becoming the first-ever double Melbourne Cup champion. Only four other horses have managed to win the Melbourne Cup more than once.

Peter Pan won in 1932 and 1934, Rain Lover finished in first place in 1968 and again in 1969. Think Big became a two-time Melbourne Cup winner with victories in 1974 and 1975, while Makybe Diva is the only horse to win this prestigious race three times, doing so in 2003, 2004, and 2005.

Eighty-two-year-old property developer and businessman Lloyd Williams is the most successful Melbourne Cup owner. Williams-owned horses have become Melbourne Cup champions on seven occasions, most recently in 2020 when Twilight Payment came out on top in the 23-strong field.

Twilight Payment was a worthy champion in 2020, beating Tiger Moth by half a length. However, Twilight Payment’s title defence did not go to plan, as the bay gelding could only muster an 11th-place finish, some 19.5 lengths behind the eventual champion Verry Elleegant. Twilight Payment retired with a record of nine wins, 11 seconds, and nine thirds on his resume.

Verry Elleegant won the 2021 Melbourne Cup by four lengths from Incentivise. Despite the mare’s success in Australia, Verry Elleegant has struggled for form since, especially in Europe. She was well off the pace in Deauville in August, at Longchamp in September and early October, and finished a disappointing 9/14 at Ascot on October 15. This poor run of form, coupled with the fact that Verry Elleegant has a nomination for the lucrative Japan Cup on November 27, means it is unlikely we will see her attempt to win back-to-back Melbourne Cup titles.

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