Melbourne Cup Day
Melbourne Cup Day is Australia’s most famous Tuesday. At 3.00 pm AEST, on the first Tuesday in November, Australians everywhere stop for one of the world’s most famous horse races – the Melbourne Cup.
It’s a day when the nation stops whatever it’s doing to listen to the race call, or watch the race on TV. Even those who don’t usually bet, try their luck with a small wager or entry into a ‘sweep’ – a lottery in which each ticket-holder is matched with a randomly drawn horse.
Since 1877, Cup Day has been a public holiday for Melbourne, and crowdshave flocked to the track. By 11.00 am on the first holiday, the Flemington grandstand was packed to its 7,000 capacity, and by 3.00 pm, 150,000 people were estimated to have gathered – thronging the hill beyond. The party atmosphere often means that champagne and canapés, huge hats and racetrack fashions overshadow the business of horse racing.
The Melbourne Cup has long been known as an urban fashion parade. The race track was one of the few places in colonial Australia where high society and the lower classes came together socially. The first Australian race meet, held in 1810, established the culture of the Melbourne Cup and was organised in Sydney by Governor Macquarie as part of a plan to improve the cultural life of Sydney.
The racecourse was designed as a neutral meeting place for colonists of all classes – military officers, convicts and free settlers. The Subscriber’s Ball, organised with the 1810 race meeting, was attended by ‘all the Beauty & Fashion of the Colony’ (Sydney Gazette, October 1810).