How many horses take part in the Melbourne Cup? This is not as simple a question as it seems. Yes, two dozen will make it to the start at Flemington on the second Tuesday of November each year, as this is the set safety limit. Mind you, it has not always been this way. Back in 1890, 39 took part, and this was the largest actual field ever assembled (the UK Grand National, for instance, still allows a maximum of 40).
However, back to our original question. Another answer can be anything up to 400. Now that would be a start – though some would probably already have finished as the last ones just got going! This number is the total of the horses nominated to take part in the initial stages of deciding the race field. This costs each owner $600. After weights are then allocated, the field goes through a balloting process, of which more later, and four times before the race, each owner must declare their horse an ‘acceptor’ and pay a further fee. The final one, on the Saturday before the Tuesday race, currently costs over $45,000! Mind you, when the final 24 runners are announced that evening, if a horse is balloted out, the fee is returned.
Having been competed since 1861, the Melbourne Cup field is accepted as the top one for 3-year-old thoroughbreds in Australia. Back in the early days, the distance was a full two miles; metrically now set at a marginally shorter 3200 metres. The event is superbly organised by the Victorian Racing Club and is part of a day where fashion is foremost in the minds of quite a few of the hundred thousand or so thronging Flemington, and the devoted racing fans can enjoy a full card of ten terrific races over a variety of distances and purses.
If the final entry fee seems hefty, it pales in comparison to the prize pot for the Emirates Melbourne Cup of $6.2 million. It’s described as a staying handicap, and entrants are at least three years old (the jockeys do tend to be quite a bit older than that). Each horse is carefully ‘handicapped’ by having been given a stipulated minimum weight to carry. This sees the riding gear adjusted through the use of ballast, to reach the set weight. It’s worth knowing that older horses do tend to be more heavily weighted.
The ballot will provide the remaining entries after those already exempt, thanks to victories in other key races, such as the Cox Plate or Caulfield Cup and others, are placed in the final Melbourne Cup field. Results, both wins and placings, prize money from the past two years, and handicap weight will all be factored into this difficult decision process.
Melbourne Cup results don’t favour favourites, with way less than a third romping home ahead of the rest. Therefore, when considering Melbourne Cup tips and odds, know that it is an unpredictable race (mind you, aren’t they all). It’s also worth using our odds comparison tool to gain the best value you can for each dollar you place on the nose of your chosen entrant.
Melbourne Cup Field and Odds
From the four hundred initially declared, only two dozen of the finest thoroughbreds, aged three years and above, and from anywhere in the world, will make it to the starting gate for each year’s Melbourne Cup. It’s usually a wide open race, and this is emphasised by the low percentage of favourites who end up taking the coveted title, and allowing the owner to take permanent possession of that year’s Cup trophy, valued at around $175,000. Incidentally, both the winning jockey and trainer also receive a miniature version for their own trophy cabinets. The overall prize fund for what is officially the Emirates Melbourne Cup, is a mind-blowing $6.2 million.
This is why, on the first Tuesday in November, the country seems to come to a halt for a few minutes. If you are not one of the lucky 100,000 or so packing into Flemington Racecourse, you might well be gathered round a screen of some kind to watch the outcome of this unmatched 3200m (originally two miles) thoroughbred handicap.
Of course, this is all fine and dandy, but there is another major area to get into concerning this amazing race. This is also the day that Australia takes a collective punt. For some, this will be akin to a birthday or anniversary – a once a year event. For others, it will be another day, if not just another race, to enjoy their horse racing betting pastime. Indeed, the really keen might well be looking for not just Melbourne Cup tips, but for possible winners right across the day’s full ten-race card.
How can we help? Well, right back in early September, when there is a release of the names of around four hundred initial nominations for this race, we start producing our superb form guides. We then continue to update these every single week until the race itself. On the Saturday night, before the Tuesday afternoon race, at around 7.30pm, the two dozen horses that have made it into the final Melbourne Cup field will be announced. As you’d expect, we’ll be right on top of that for you too.
From there, if you go into the possibilities in depth, you can consider a horse’s record, winnings, how the jockey performs, what the race conditions are likely to be, and much more. Mind you, some folk will simply have a ‘fancy’ for whatever reason!
Selections made, the final step is to make sure you gain the best possible Melbourne Cup odds for every hard-earned dollar you spend. Our acclaimed odds comparison tool comes to the fore here. We use it to pit the TAB against all of Australia’s leading online bookmaking firms, allowing you to make a reasoned choice of where best to place your bets.
Then, it’s Tuesday, it’s Flemington, they’re under starter’s orders, the nation is holding its breath, and you are (metaphorically at least) holding your betting slip. Wonder what happens next?