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The Race That Stops a NationPublished October 22, 2008
The Melbourne Cup is the world's most prestigious handicap over two miles, and a big event for betting enthusiasts.
Nicknamed "the race that stops a nation", the $5 million Melbourne Cup is Australia's most important annual thoroughbred horse race.
The race has traditionally been run on the first Tuesday in November, since it was first held in 1861. Held over approximately two miles (3.2 kilometers), the Melbourne Cup is considered the most prestigious handicap over that distance, with jockeys and trainers coming from traditional horse-racing countries like Ireland, Britain, Japan and Hong Kong to try and catch their piece of the glory.
Held every year at Flemington Racecourse in Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, the race is open to all horses three-years-old and up.
The Melbourne Cup received its nickname because an entire nation of 21 million people literally stops to watch the race of just over three minutes.
Melbourne Cup Day is an official public holiday in the south-eastern state of Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital), and in the Australian Capital Territory. There have been repeated calls to make the day a public holiday in other states too, as it has been somewhat of a tradition for offices to close early and bosses to shout their employees drinks prior to the race.
Even in New Zealand, across the Tasman Sea, the Cup is watched in huge numbers and is the country's single biggest betting event.
Betting on the cup
Aside from the workplace cup "sweeps" conducted in offices and schools across Australia and New Zealand, huge amounts of money are bet on this event.
While the exact numbers are not known, in 2000 Australian bookmaker TAB estimated that 80% of Australia's adult population placed a bet on the event.
It's common on Race Day to see parents turn up with their kids to help them legally place their first ever bet.
2008 Melbourne Cup
As usual, the race will take place on the first Tuesday in November, which falls this year on November 4. Bets can be placed with most major online bookmakers, with the current favorites at Australian bookmaker Betfair: Septimus, 5.7, Mad Rush, 6.4, and 2007 winner, the New Zealand-bred Efficient, 8.0.