The Melbourne Cup is Australia's major annual thoroughbred horse race. Billed as 'the race that stops a nation', it is for three-year-olds and over, and covers a distance of 3200 metres. The event has been held on the first Tuesday in November since 1861 by the Victoria Racing Club, at Flemington Park in Melbourne. It is generally regarded as the most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world.
The race was originally held over two miles, about 3,218 metres, but following Australia's adoption of the metric system in 1972 the current distance of 3200 metres was adopted. This reduced the distance by 61ft 6in, and Rain Lover's 1968 race record of 3min.19.1sec was accordingly adjusted to 3min.17.9sec. The present record holder is the 1990 winner Kingston Rule with a time of 3min 16.3sec.
New Zealand success
Since the race was first run; New Zealand-breds have won 41 Melbourne Cups starting in 1883 with Martini Henry. In recent years their success has been remarkable with NZ breds taking 28 of the past 50 Melbourne Cups.
Famous NZ-breds to land the famous race in recent years include Ethereal (2001), Might and Power (1997) and Doriemus (1995), all of whom also won Australia's famous Caulfield Cup.
However possibly the most famous New Zealand bred Melbourne Cup Winner was a horse named Kiwi. Kiwi was a race horse who in 1983 won the Wellington Cup and the Melbourne Cup.
Kiwi raced from 1980 to 1987, and he was purchased by Waverley sheep farmer Snow Lupton for only NZ$1000, originally to be used as a stock horse on the farm, and was never intended to be tried as a thoroughbred racing galloper.
Legend has it that as Kiwi proved to be a fast horse with plenty of stamina around the Lupton farm, Lupton was convinced by his friends to enter Kiwi in the Derby at nearby Wanganui, to see how he ran under race conditions. He instantly showed promise, especially over longer distances. He was an unknown quantity at the two mile distance when he was entered in the 1983 Wellington Cup, and won handily.
Despite having won over the two mile distance, he was still a distant long shot with the bookmakers and punters alike on race day, and started at 10/1. Yet he managed to come from last in the final straight to take the victory and capture the hearts of racing aficionados.
He was retired to the Lupton's farm.
Melbourne Cup Day Racing in New Zealand
The first Tuesday in November is generally a day where even here in New Zealand the entire nation stops to watch the great race. This day is also known for office sweepstakes, and for many New Zealanders the one day of the year where they will venture down to the TAB to make an investment on the big race.
Domestically there are three thoroughbred meetings conducted on this day for the Auckland Racing Club at Ellerslie, the Otaki-Maori Racing Club at Otaki, and the Otago Racing Club at Wingatui. For the Otago Racing Club the day mirrors Flemington and has a glamorous image and a noticeable fashion theme highlighted by the 'Fashions on the Field' competition. The day is extremely popular with Otago businesses who utilize the event to entertain clients and staff.