The Melbourne Cup will attract a global TV audience of 750 million racing fans when it takes place at Flemington on November 3. Read on for a full rundown of everything you need to know about the big race:
What is the Melbourne Cup?
The Melbourne Cup is the most prestigious race of the year in Australia. It has been held on an annual basis ever since it was inaugurated in 1861. The race has Group 1 status and takes place over a distance of 3,200m at Flemington in Melbourne. It attracts only the world’s finest stayers, and a strict ballot system is used to determine the final field.
Just 24 stayers make it onto the final ballot, and the winner typically finishes in less than 3 minutes and 25 seconds. The Melbourne Cup is dubbed “the race that stops a nation” due to its unique ability to bring Australia to a halt, but it is actually an immensely popular race around the world. Racing Victoria Club officials expect an audience of 750 million viewers across more than 160 territories across the globe.
How much Prize Money is at Stake?
Prize money for the Melbourne Cup increased to a cool AU$8 million in 2019, cementing its status as the world’s richest handicap. It is also the world’s richest staying race. Prize money will remain at $8 million in 2020, despite the financial challenges the sport is facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It leaves the Melbourne Cup as the ninth richest race in the world, behind only the Saudi Cup, The Everest, Dubai World Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Japan Cup, Dubai Turf, Sheema Classic and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The winner of the Melbourne Cup receives $4.4 million, plus $250,000 in trophies. The second placed horse receives $1.1 million and third place is worth $550,000, while even the horse that finishes 12th will walk off with $160,000.
Will Spectators be Allowed to Attend?
Racing has been held behind closed doors in empty stadiums this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Organisers of the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup – the other two big races of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival are resigned to the fact that the races will go ahead without spectators this year. However, Victoria Racing Club has not given up hope of welcoming crowds to Flemington for the Melbourne Cup.
The event typically attracts more than 100,000 spectators, and there is no way that a similar sized crowd will be allowed to attend this year. However, Covid-19 cases are decreasing in Victoria – the worst hit of all Australian states – and VRC has submitted a proposal to the state government requesting that 10,000 to 15,000 fans could be permitted to watch the race unfold live.
VRC chief executive Neil Wilson said he is in “regular discussions with the state government as to how we may be able to safely welcome small crowds to Cup week”. He added: “No decision on crowds for the Cup week has been made. The decision ultimately lies with the state government and will depend on public health advice.” The Herald Sun has reported on a “secret last-ditch plan” for Melbourne Cup crowds hatched this week.
When Will We Know the Final Field and Barrier Draw?
The final field will be revealed on Saturday, October 31, which is also the day of the VRC at Flemington Racecourse. We will also learn the jockeys for each runner, and the barrier draw will be made on that day too. Barrier 5 is the most successful since the barrier system was introduced, with eight winners, while Barriers 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 14, 17, 19 and 22 have also yielded a number of winners. Barrier 18 is the only barrier that has never produced a Melbourne Cup winner. You can visit Racenet for a full list of the final field and barrier numbers on October 31, and you can also learn more about the Melbourne Cup there.
Who are the Leading Contenders for the 2020 Melbourne Cup?
There are three horses vying to be the Melbourne Cup favourite in the betting odds. The first is the lightly raced Tiger Moth. He finished just a head behind stablemate Santiago in the Irish Derby earlier this year, and then obliterated his rivals in the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes in September. Irish raiders have performed well in the race in recent years, and he will carry just 52.5kg, so he is the narrow favourite right now.
Last year, trainer Danny O’Brien saddled the first Australian winner of the Melbourne Cup in a decade. His big hope this year is Russian Camelot. He powered to an eyes-catching victory in the Group 1 SA Derby at Morphettville earlier this year. He then returned to action in September with a second placed finish in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes over 1,600m. He beat Humidor and Arcadia Queen to win the Group 1 Underwood Stakes over 1,800m in his next race, before finishing second to Arcadia Queen in the Group 1 Neds Stakes (2,000m) on October 10.
The final favourite contender is Surprise Baby, who finished fifth in the Melbourne Cup last year. The New Zealand-bred stayer will carry an extra 1 kg this time around, but he has looked sharp in recent months. Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien will also have Santiago and Anthony Van Dyck running alongside Tiger Moth, while his son Joseph – who won the 2017 Melbourne Cup – has high hopes for Master of Reality. Verry Elleegant looks like the best mare to enter the race in several years, while last year’s winner, Vow And Declare, is expected to be in the mix, along with Finche, King of Leogrance, Ashrun, Persan and Warning.
Where Can I Watch the Melbourne Cup?
In Australia, Channel 10 has purchased the broadcast rights for the Melbourne Cup, allowing you to watch it unfold on 10 Play. Some bookmakers will also offer live streaming, while international coverage is available through the likes of Eurosport, CBS, Australia Plus and Dubai Sports, so there are plenty of ways to watch the action unfold, regardless of where you are based.