Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Why did the Melbourne Cup Become so Popular?

Melbourne Cup

If there’s a single horse race in Australia that pulls in more crowds and more interest than any other, it’s the Melbourne Cup. This once-simple race has exploded over the decades to become an all-singing, all-dancing carnival affair. The fact is that it’s no longer just a horse race or your run-of-the-mill race meeting. It’s a celebration, and a wonderful chance to let your hair down.

You don’t need to be that big a fan of racing, or even a punter, to get a lot out of the Melbourne Cup. It’s the perfect example of a racing or sporting event that’s really evolved beyond its original means. It’s just a fantastic chance for people across Victoria to come and have some fun. It’s even got its own national day, as Australians everywhere will hopefully already know.

What is it about the Melbourne Cup that makes it so special? What is it that’s helped it become this all-encompassing fun event that people flock to from all corners of the country? Is it that top Melbourne Cup tips are easier to come by than ever before? Is it that celebrations and events at the race are becoming more accessible or more vivid?

Let’s take a look at the history of the race and tap into what’s happened in the intervening years to make it such an incredible deal for sports lovers everywhere.

Quick to grow

History tells us that it seems to be the electric atmosphere of the Melbourne Cup that really propelled it to popularity. It started life in 1861 at Flemington. However, in the space of 20 years, the crowds at the race grew exponentially.

We’re looking at some seriously impressive gate figures. Only 4,000 attendees watched the race the first time around. That figure had exploded by 1880, with around 100,000 people taking to the stands. That’s particularly impressive given the fact that this accounted for around a third of the Melbourne populace at the time!

It’s been a celebration, not just a race, for the longest time. The original prizes of watches and other accoutrements have faded away in favour of big-money opportunities, as is to be expected. However, it’s not just the money and prizes that keep the Melbourne Cup running. As we can see from other big sporting events, the best sportspeople have always been able to make serious money.

Fashion and flair

Anyone who has ever been to see the festival in person will tell you that it’s not just an excuse to let your hair down, but also to show off some stunning fashions. This goes for men as well as women! There are always some eye-catching looks at Flemington, and for the women attending, this normally means some of the most bizarre and opulent hats and headwear you’ve ever seen.

For the men, it means taking a chance on a daring suit combo. Yes, it makes sense to dress up formal, but the Melbourne Cup is such a bright and bombastic affair that it would be a shame to just wear the same old pinstripe. Therefore, there’s a pretty big impetus to make a visual splash, even if you’re not really into the racing side of things.

People in the racing game often talk about the fashions of Ascot and the Grand National over in the UK. However, they really don’t have anything on Australian race meetings. Also, we go all out when it comes to the bubbly. Did you know that you could pretty much line the whole of the track at Flemington with the champagne bottles drunk at an average Melbourne Cup meeting?

A VIP affair

The Melbourne Cup has evolved from an occasional race in Victoria into something a bit flashier and a bit more ‘VIP’. It’s completely expected that you’ll see a few big stars here and there taking advantage of their own luxury booths and vantage points. There are often marquees as far as the eye can see – meaning that you’re no longer just watching a race but really hobnobbing with the real VIP crowd.

For a lot of people lucky enough to go to the race in person, it’s an amazing feeling. Many people who head to the Melbourne Cup will likely tell you that the atmosphere is extravagant yet welcoming. The race has exploded into this luxurious affair, with lavish food and drink on offer, as well as fantastic views of the track and the race ahead.

But…it’s just a race?

That’s where you would be wrong. Tell any Australian racing fan that the Melbourne Cup is ‘just a race’ and you will be doing yourself a disservice!

The Melbourne Cup actually covers a race card of up to 10 races in the whole event, meaning that all the celebration and bluster is actually carrying over several nail-biting chases to the finish. That said, even if it was still just about the one big race, you will still likely be seeing crowds head to Victoria to take it all in.

The evolution of the Melbourne Cup from a simple race into an enormous event is nothing short of stunning. However, it’s pretty easy to understand how this change has steamrollered away over the past few decades.

People are always looking for something fun to do. They are always looking for ways to leave behind the stress and the humdrum of everyday life, and who can blame them? With life as unpredictable as it is at the best of times, people just want a constant source of happiness and positivity that is sometimes hard to find.

Ever been to the race?

Even if you’ve never been to the Melbourne Cup before, you can still take advantage of the fun from afar. It’s really easy to find a channel or stream that’s showing the best bits, and as it’s a national day, it’s an excuse for everyone to just take a bit of time out, kick back and relax.

Very few sporting events really go so far to open things up to all, so if you’ve not yet had the chance to sample the fun, let 2021 be the year you make a change!
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images


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