There is no denying that horse racing is one of the most popular events for people to bet on in the UK, and as the second most popular sport in the country with billions of pounds spent on it every year, it’s easy to see that the public loves to consume it.
However, it’s not just limited to the UK, and some of the biggest and most prestigious races can be found all over the world, such as the Melbourne Cup in Australia.
The benefits of betting online in these circumstances are obvious when referring to an event over 10,000 miles away. Few make the trip to the other side of the world to see the legendary handicap, despite how many buckets lists it may appear on!
The Melbourne Cup or ‘The race that stops the nation’ as it is affectionately known as is a handicap race which means there can always be some value available for punters who decide to take their betting outside the country.
With it being the richest two-mile handicap in the world, the Australian city doesn’t find it difficult to attract a quality field.
Betting on the horse race can be as simple or complicated as you’d like it to be, with a maximum field of 24 runners allowed, there is the opportunity to find some nicely-priced outsiders to form a tricast or keep it straightforward and just bet on your fancy to land the spoils.
There’s a reason the Melbourne Cup is known as ‘the race that stops the nation’. Since its inaugural running in 1861, it has captivated the state of Victoria, Australia, and indeed the rest of the world.
Attracting 4,000 racegoers for the first 17-runner affair, the prize was a slightly less glamourous £710 and a gold watch, which is dwarfed by today’s prize pot of A$8,000,000.
The race is open to horses three years old or over and is run at Flemington racecourse in – you guessed it – Melbourne. Flemington has been used for racing since as far back as 1840 and boasts a capacity of over 120,000.
The wider community has always got behind the race and it’s a widely acknowledged open secret that many unofficial sick days are taken on the day of the race.
Falling on the first Tuesday in November every year, the race attracts global attention and global participants.
Overseas runners are keen to get in on the action and with the winners of several high-profile races from overseas guaranteeing an entry such as the Doncaster Cup (UK), Tenno Sho Spring (JPN), and the Arlington Million (USA) there is plenty of hot competition for places.
One interesting facet of the Melbourne Cup is that if the winner has also won that year’s renewal of the Irish St Leger, then the winning connections automatically receive a A$500,000 bonus.
This year’s winner was trained by former multiple Group 1-winning jockey Johnny Murtagh, who trained Sunnyboyliston to success at the Curragh.
However, the County Meath trainer is keeping tight-lipped on whether his stable star will travel down under.
There is nowhere else to start a list of notable Melbourne Cup winners than with Makybe Diva, a record-breaker in every sense of the word at Flemington.
The mare won the two-mile event a record three times while no horse has managed the feat more than twice and Makybe Diva did the hattrick in three consecutive years. She was also the only mare to win the race more than once, as the four others to have notched up two wins were all male horses.
She achieved the feat in the seasons of 2003, 2004, and 2005 before going on to win the Group 1 Cox Plate in 2005. Makybe Diva eventually finished her remarkable career with earnings of more than A$14,000,000.
History maker Prince Of Penzance comes next on the list, as the New Zealand-bred winner was trained by Darren Weir and ridden to victory by Michelle Payne, the first female winner of the race in its 150-year history.
The female jockey is alone in a company as there has not been another female winner since she broke that ground in 2015. The horse was an impressive son of Pentire, winner of the 1996 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Equally noteworthy, the gelding was sent off as a 100/1 outsider for the event, but with Michelle Payne at the reins that now looks a laughable price.
The 2017 renewal of the Melbourne Cup was all about youth. The winner, Rekindling, became the youngest winner of the race in 76 years when landing the spoils as a three-year-old.
Rekindling was trained by Joseph O’Brien who became the youngest ever winning trainer of the race at a grand old age of 24, and in only his second full season as a trainer.
His horse managed to beat his father’s (Aidan O’Brien) Johannes Vermeer into second by half a length and Max Dynamite (Willie Mullins) into third, completing a 1-2-3 for Ireland in the big race.
This was Joseph’s first success in the race with his second coming in the 2020 renewal with Twilight Payment.
Aside from the previously mentioned winners, which are notable stories in their own right, there have still been many notable and memorable stories to take out of the Melbourne Cup.
We can start here though where it all began, in 1861, the first running of the race and the first winner, Archer. His connections proved to have a love-hate affair with the race, after landing the first two Melbourne Cups they wanted to send him back for the hattrick attempt but the two-time winner was unable to make the field when the eventual winner carried just 5 stone 4lbs.
That was some 27kgs less than Archer had in the previous year and the race times were just eight seconds indifference, meaning Archer would more than likely have made history with three wins.
Another notable story comes from Australia’s neighbours, New Zealand. They’ve become an integral part of the race over the years given their comparative proximity, and no horse has made more of an impression than the aptly named Kiwi.
In a wet and grey renewal in 1983, Kiwi had just two horses behind him at the 800m mark and as the field swung into the straight, his jockey Jim Cassidy, started to make a move but Kiwi was still sat in 15th place at the 300m mark.
With seemingly no clear path to victory, most would have been ripping up bet slips at this point, until Kiwi started to weave through traffic and find a clear run, and as soon as he was out in the open Cassidy had his foot held firmly on the accelerator when Kiwi kicked into top gear finishing nearly two lengths clear of the field. It was a well-deserved victory for New Zealand and Kiwi.
You can’t talk about notable stories from the Melbourne Cup without mentioning the fastest ever race run, and that accolade goes to Kingston Rule.
Sent off as joint favourite on the day in the 1990 renewal, Kingston Rule had an awkward start, but he overcame it to find a good position on the rail where he tried to keep out of trouble.
At the 800m mark he found himself in eighth place on the fence and starting to find his momentum, but jockey Darren Beadman kept his mount close to the rail for as long as possible before coming up to the 300m mark where he decided to unleash Kingston Rule’s raw speed.
He soon hit the front and kept on going to win the Melbourne Cup in a record time of three minutes 16.3 seconds which, for context, is a time that only three horses in the subsequent renewals have come within two seconds of.
As the Melbourne Cup is a handicap, it is important to understand first what a handicap race is and, secondly, how to find a horse that is well-handicapped.
A handicap race is a race in which horses carry different weights, each allocated by an independent handicapper. A better horse will carry a heavier weight to give it a disadvantage when racing against inferior horses.
The theory of handicapping horses is so that each race becomes a level playing field and enables each runner to have the best possible chance of victory.
For punters, the aim is to try and find a horse that is actually better than its rating and is therefore what’s known as ‘well-handicapped’. In essence, the horse is running with less weight than it should do and so it has a better chance of winning than its rating suggests.
There are many different types of bets on horse racing and when deciding to bet on a horse race it is important to note this as a horse doesn’t always need to find itself in the winners’ enclosure for punters to see a return on their stake.
The most common bet is a straight bet which is when you are simply betting on something to happen and in the case of horse racing, you are betting on a horse to win a race.
This, though, can often be paired with an each-way bet in which you double your win stake in order to place a second bet that the horse will at least place.
This, more often than not, will be on places two or three but can be bigger depending on the size of the field, if the horse doesn’t win but manages to place your bet will return a fraction of the odds usually one-fifth or one quarter.
In big field handicaps, this can be a vital bet to utilise when looking to minimise losses.
Another common wager type is a forecast. This requires you to pick the first and second horses to finish in a race. This can be a straight forecast which is the 1-2 in the correct order, or a reverse forecast which is where it doesn’t matter what order the selected horses finish in.
The final commonly-used bet type is a tricast. The aim of this type of bet is to back the three horses that finish first, second and third in a selected race.
This is obviously very tricky so the returns for punters can be significantly higher than other bet types.
It’s no surprise given the prize money on offer that this race can attract horses that are campaigned with this race specifically in mind and therefore it’s not a typical handicappers race.
Trainers will try to minimise a horse’s handicap mark in order to give it the best possible chance of winning. It is these horses that you should be on the lookout for when placing a bet on the Melbourne Cup.
Although, that can be easier said than done because of course there can be no point for a trainer to gain entry to the race on a low mark only to be balloted out when numbers become too high.
When looking at a particularly high-profile race such as the Melbourne Cup, one thing punters can do is look at trends of years gone by. Such as specific connections, be that trainers, owners, or even jockeys, that do well in the race.
Bart Cummings is the perfect example of this, he knew exactly how to prepare a horse for the Melbourne Cup, which is shown in his record, he managed to land the prize a staggering 12 times between 1965 and 2008.
As ever, the each-way bet in a big field handicap, of which the Melbourne Cup is, can be crucial in hopefully picking out your winner or at least minimize your risk by cheering your horse into a place.