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Melbourne Cup Carnival an Event for Everyone

For the hardcore punters, Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival is a three-month long festival of black-type racing and a celebration of the champions of the Australasian turf. But for the majority of those with just a passing interest in the sport of kings, the four days of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington are about as long as their attention span (and funds) will stretch.

It’s not hard to see where the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) focusses its energies either, with nary a mention or image of a thoroughbred racehorse on their homepage. But despite interest waning over the past decade (attendances have dropped about 25 per cent in that period, down from a staggering 418,069 in 2006), this four-day festival is, for the bulk of the Australian population, the only time they’ll pick up a form guide each year.

WFA feature highlights carnival finale

The structure of the Melbourne Cup Carnival has changed little in recent history – AAMI Victoria Derby on the first Saturday (October 29 this year), Emirates Melbourne Cup Day on the first Tuesday in November, Crown Oaks Day on Thursday (November 3) and Emirates Stakes Day on the final Saturday (November 5).

But in a significant change this year, the Emirates Stakes has been shifted to Derby Day and renamed the Cantala Stakes (it remains a Group 1 race over 1600m). Confusingly, the VRC have shifted the L.K.S. MacKinnon Stakes from Derby Day to the final day, and have renamed it the Emirates Stakes! It remains a weight-for-age race over 2000 metres although prizemoney has been boosted to AUD $2 million. It was hoped that dual Cox Plate winner Winx would run, but she’s been sent to the paddock after last Saturday’s remarkable win.

An appropriate arena for racing royalty

In stark contrast to the tight and tricky Moonee Valley layout around which Winx again smashed her rivals, Flemington is all about space. The course proper is just over 2300m and features one tight corner just after the winning post, and a sweeping turn from the 1300m mark until the start of the home straight around 500m from home.

Uniquely, all races up to 1200m are run down Flemington’s famous ‘Straight Six’, culminating in the AUD $1,000,000 Group 1 Darley Classic on the final day of the carnival. It’s quite a sight (and a racecaller’s nightmare) to see runners spread right across the track in search of the best ground. The Melbourne Cup combines both courses, starting at the 1000m mark before runners complete a full circuit of the main track to complete the most famous 3200 metres in the sport.

155 years on, it’s still that race that stops a nation

The highlight of the week is, of course, the AUD $6 million Emirates Melbourne Cup. One of the world’s great handicap contests, the Melbourne Cup is also much more than a horse race – it’s a revered sporting, social and cultural event, that continues to play a significant role in defining Australia’s national identity.

Scores of TAB and picnic race meetings across the nation (almost 50 this year), along with thousands of office parties and BBQs on Melbourne Cup Day help define the event as the race that truly stops the nation. At second acceptances on Monday, 32 horses remain in contention for one of the 24 starting positions. Hartnell, which finished eight lengths second to Winx in Saturday’s Cox Plate, is the $4.60 favourite with William Hill ahead of Caulfield Cup winner Jameka ($6.50). Saturday’s Lexus Stakes is the last chance to earn a guaranteed start.

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