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Every year, on the first Tuesday of November, Australia and the world come together to witness the “race that stops a nation” – the Melbourne Cup. Held at the historic Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, this prestigious event isn’t just about horse racing; it’s a celebration of tradition, fashion, and the undeniable thrill of the sport. In this blog post, we will delve into the Melbourne Cup, offering you essential race day information to help you make the most of this iconic event.

A Brief History

The Melbourne Cup is more than just a horse race; it’s a symbol of Australia’s cultural heritage. First run in 1861, it predates most other major horse racing events in the world, including the Kentucky Derby and the Epsom Derby. The cup is named after Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria, where the race takes place.

Over the years, the Melbourne Cup has grown in stature and popularity. It has become one of the most prestigious horse races globally, attracting horses, trainers, and jockeys from around the world. The cup has also evolved into a social and fashion extravaganza, with attendees dressing up in their finest attire and enjoying a day of entertainment, fine dining, and, of course, horse racing.

The Flemington Racecourse

The Melbourne Cup is synonymous with the Flemington Racecourse, a picturesque venue located just six kilometers from Melbourne’s city center. This historic racecourse, which spans over 2.8 square kilometers, is an integral part of the Melbourne Cup’s charm and history.

Key features of Flemington Racecourse include:

  1. The Main Straight: Known as the “Home Straight,” this is where the race culminates, and the winning horse crosses the finish line, amid roaring cheers from the crowd.
  2. The Birdcage: An exclusive area where celebrities, VIPs, and the who’s who of society gather to see and be seen. It’s an essential part of the Melbourne Cup’s social scene.
  3. Fashions on the Field: A competition for the best-dressed racegoers. This has become a significant highlight, with attendees donning their most elegant and stylish attire to compete for coveted fashion prizes.
  4. Rose Garden: A beautifully landscaped area where racegoers can enjoy a picnic and take in the atmosphere.

Race Day Schedule

The Melbourne Cup day is more than just a single race; it’s a full day of entertainment and festivities. Here’s a typical schedule for the day:

  • Morning: The race day usually kicks off with various pre-race events, including traditional “breakfast with the stars” gatherings, where attendees can see the Melbourne Cup contenders up close during their morning workouts.
  • Gates Open: The gates to the Flemington Racecourse open in the late morning, allowing racegoers to explore the venue, place bets, and enjoy the various pre-race entertainment options.
  • Fashion on Display: Many racegoers spend the morning and early afternoon showcasing their fashion in the hope of winning the Fashions on the Field competition. This is a major highlight for those who take pride in their race day attire.
  • Culinary Delights: Flemington Racecourse offers an array of dining options, from casual eateries to fine dining restaurants. Enjoying gourmet food and beverages is an essential part of the Melbourne Cup experience.
  • Horse Racing: While the Melbourne Cup is the main event, it’s not the only race of the day. A series of other races, including the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic and the Mackinnon Stakes, take place leading up to the main event.
  • The Melbourne Cup Race: The Melbourne Cup race itself usually starts around 3 PM local time. It’s a 3200-meter (approximately two-mile) race, and the excitement reaches its peak as the field of horses thunder down the straight.
  • Post-Race Celebrations: After the Melbourne Cup, the party continues with celebrations, entertainment, and live music, making it a festive atmosphere for racegoers to enjoy well into the evening.

Fashion and Dress Code

The Melbourne Cup is not just about the horses; it’s also a fashion extravaganza. Attendees take great pride in dressing up for the event, and there are specific dress codes to adhere to:

  • For Women: Ladies often wear elegant dresses, hats, and fascinators. A well-coordinated outfit with attention to detail is key to winning the Fashions on the Field competition.
  • For Men: Men typically opt for suits and ties, with some embracing more traditional attire like top hats and tails. It’s a day to showcase classic style.
  • The Birdcage: If you’re lucky enough to be invited to the Birdcage, the dress code is even more stringent. Here, you’ll find the height of high fashion.

Betting on the Melbourne Cup

Betting on the Melbourne Cup is a cherished tradition, and it’s an essential part of the race day experience for many attendees. Here are some key points to know about betting on the Melbourne Cup:

  • Types of Bets: There are various types of bets you can place, from simple win or place bets to more complex exotic bets like quinellas, trifectas, and the elusive Melbourne Cup exacta.
  • Betting Locations: Betting facilities are readily available at the racecourse, with numerous betting booths and self-service terminals. You can also place bets through online betting platforms if you prefer to wager from your mobile device.
  • Responsible Gambling: Remember to gamble responsibly. Set a budget for your bets, and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. Gambling should be a fun and enjoyable aspect of the Melbourne Cup experience.

Transport and Accommodation

As one of the most popular events in Australia, the Melbourne Cup attracts visitors from all over the country and the world. Here are some tips for transportation and accommodation:

  • Public Transport: The easiest way to get to Flemington Racecourse is by train, with special services running on Melbourne Cup day. Trams and buses also service the area.
  • Accommodation: If you’re coming from out of town, book your accommodation well in advance, as hotels and other lodgings tend to fill up quickly during this peak season.


The Melbourne Cup is more than just a horse race; it’s a cultural phenomenon that brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate sports, fashion, and tradition. Whether you’re a horse racing enthusiast, a fashionista, or simply looking for an unforgettable experience, the Melbourne Cup offers something for everyone. So, dress your best, place your bets, and prepare to immerse yourself in the excitement of this iconic Australian event. Melbourne Cup day is a day like no other, where history and tradition meet modern-day spectacle, making it a must-attend event for anyone visiting Australia in November.

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