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The Guide to the Melbourne Cup

Despite being one of the only big 2m contests on the international thoroughbred racing calendar, the Melbourne Cup is growing in prominence around the world and attracting some of the top turf runners from across the planet.

Contested each year in November at Flemington Racecourse in Australia, the Melbourne Cup is the single biggest race day on the Australian scene and is colloquially known as The race that stops a nation.

The open nature of the race adds a distinct amount of appeal as the race generally involves prestigious multi-million dollar colts lining up against blue-collar geldings owned by plumbers or builders.

The Melbourne Cup draws upwards of 100,000 patrons to Flemington Racecourse in Victoria on a single day and it is considered one of the biggest spectator sports in Australia. 

The most successful trainer at the Melbourne Cup is without a doubt the legendary Bart Cummings. Winning his first Melbourne Cup in 1965, he has captured the race twelve times in his career. The race has been run nearly every year since 1861 (the picture above being an engraving of the finish line made in 1881)  and the off happens at ten minutes to three on the first Tuesday in November.

The massive purse that is split amongst the first ten finishers is the main reason why the race is attracting shippers from every continent. A massive $6,000,000 is split amongst the top finishers with the winner earning a whopping $3,300,000 payday and status as the best pure two-miler in the world.

Since the race is run as a handicap, winners of races with prize money over $55,000, in Australian currency, are assigned a weight penalty. The race is restricted to 24 runners and preference is given to winners of the following races: the Lexus Stakes, Victoria Derby, LKS Mackinnon Stakes, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup, Doncaster Cup, Irish St. Leger, Tenno Sho (Spring), Sankei Sho All Comers, Arlington Million, San Juan Capistrano Handicap and the Australian Stayers Challenge.

An additional $500,000 bonus is offered to any contender who wins the Melbourne Cup and the Irish St. Leger in the same calendar year. The famous Australian thoroughbred Phar Lap was considered the biggest favourite of all time – sent off at a slim 8/11 price back in 1930.

Betting on the Melbourne Cup can be a very interesting proposition and the general rule of thumb is that most punters having a bet on the race have little to no clue what they're doing. This usually results in some very impressive odds being available and a savvy wagerer can capitalize on massive overlays.

One important thing to remember when betting on the Melbourne Cup is that most of the horses contesting the race, especially the ones from Australia, do not necessarily excel at a 2m distance. This is a quirky length for a race and it is generally agreed upon that Australia does not breed particularly impressive staying horses. In fact, New Zealand-bred contenders have won a full 40 Melbourne Cups.

Each-way betting is a good strategy on a race like this – especially if the Melbourne Cup that you're wagering on lacks a distinct favourite. There is still plenty of reward for a contender finishing fourth or fifth so sometimes the direct victory isn't really the horses target.

Backing a longer odds selection at 20s or 33s will sometimes be more advisable on a place-only wager, but any horse priced at 16s should be backed each-way. Any less than that, you should probably keep your wager win-only to ensure proper value if you get it right.

The exacta or forecast wager on the Melbourne Cup is a popular one with turf-based exactas generally paying very high payouts. It's a tricky bet to land with 24 horses in the race but the general rule of thumb is to place your win-only selection on top and the best closer (not necessarily the best horse) on the bottom end of your wager.

The first French-bred horse to win the Melbourne Cup, along with the first French jockey, came in 2010 when Americain toppled the widely-fancied So You Think.

A number of observers noted that this will likely not be the last French winner of the Cup considering the fact that French racing breeds such quality long-distance thoroughbreds and the general feeling that French racing is on the up-and-up. The large purse on offer for the Melbourne Cup makes shipping a contender halfway across the world seem well worth it – especially if they cross the line first.

Asian horses are usually there in numbers but only a single Japanese horse has ever won the Melbourne Cup. The lack of outstanding stayers in Japan is cited as the chief reason but the growing prominence of the Asian betting markets is certainly a factor for the inflated betting pools one will usually find on Melbourne Cup day.

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