Newcomers to Australia are often a bit bemused by the celebration and festivities that surround the Melbourne Cup or ‘The race that stops a Nation’. If you have not experienced a Melbourne Cup Day before then you are in store for a treat. It is so much more than the outstanding field of 24 horses pounding the turf: it is really a race which succinctly underlines much of what it means to be Australian. Like Australia itself, the race which was first run in 1861 is steeped in history and also like Australia, the race is not so much about where competitors hail from but more about celebrating their prowess.
Over the years international horses have been worthy winners: 40 New Zealanders, 5 British,4 US, 2 Irish and a Japanese horse have been successful! Like the Australian dream itself, there are rich prizes up for grabs for those who are willing to strive for success and take a risk. The Melbourne Cup has among the richest prize money in the world and is indeed a World Class event. Australians thrive on competition and as well as being a nation that loves sport, competition of any kind is encouraged in any walk of life.
Australians love to support an underdog and among the many underdogs that have been winners of the Melbourne Cup, the story of Gala Supreme who won in 1973 stands proudly. The horse was originally written off as not having a strong heart and the jockey, Frank Reys of aboriginal heritage, was dogged by injury after injury but despite everything was given a chance by the trainer Pat Hutchins. Drawing barrier 24, which was really not a great start, Reys rode the ride of his life and brought Gala Supreme home for a fine win.
The Melbourne Cup is not a race which is attended only by the wealthy, as in some other countries. The Melbourne Cup is the people’s race where everyone is swept up in the romance and emotion of the race. Australia prides itself on its egalitarianism and this race is a strong example of that. Australians think of themselves as courageous and as the jockeys brave what is possibly the most physically demanding race of their lives thousands of onlookers hold their breath in awe at their courage!
More than anything, Australia is a fun loving nation and the Melbourne Cup is a great excuse to let down your hair, enjoy mateship, take some risks, and party. Good Luck!