As the biggest horse race in the country and one of the biggest in the world, it’s no surprise that the Melbourne Cup has a long and storied past. An entire book could be written about its history, but we’ll keep it a little more succinct and give you a brief history of the race.
When did the Melbourne Cup begin?
The first ever Melbourne Cup was held way back in 1861, 160 long years ago. It was a year in which the Gold Rush was in full swing, Burke and Wills’ expedition came to a sorry end, and champion racehorse Archer was the first past the post in the inaugural edition of a contest which would come to be known as The Race That Stops a Nation.
In that 1861 race, the Melbourne Cup was run over a total of two miles, or roughly 3.219 kilometres. It remained that way for 111 years, before Australia adopted the metric system in 1972 and it was adjusted to exactly 3.2 kilometres as a result. The 18.688 metres less might not seem like much, but when you see how regularly these races come down to the wire it’s easy to see how it can have a significant impact on the result.
Who are the most successful horses at the Melbourne Cup?
In the 160 times that the Melbourne Cup has been run, only five horses have managed to win it on multiple occasions. The first of these was Archer, who won easily in both 1861 and 1862 when, unsurprisingly, the fields were a little less competitive. He remained the only horse to win twice for 70 years, until Peter Pan won in 1934 after also winning in 1932. Rain Lover and Think Big both went back-to-back in quick succession a little over 30 years later, the former winning in ’68 and ’69 and the latter in ’74 and ’75.
Then in 2003, Makybe Diva won the first of what would be a record-breaking three Melbourne Cups. Incredibly she did it in successive years, going on to salute as favourite in both 2004 and 2005 to become the most successful racehorse in Melbourne Cup history.
Who are the most successful trainers and jockeys at the Melbourne Cup?
When it comes to training Melbourne Cup winners, the legendary Bart Cummings stands alone as unequivocally the greatest. Over his long and illustrious career, Cummings trained horses to an incredible 12 Melbourne Cup wins, the first being in 1965 and the last being 43 years later in 2008. Indicative of his dominance over the race, the next most successful trainers won a comparatively meagre five times, with both Etienne de Mestre (between 1861 and 1878) and Lee Freedman (between 1989 and 2005) sitting in second.
It’s a little tighter at the top of the leaderboard for jockey wins. Both Bobby Lewis and Harry White sit at the top with four wins, Lewis having won his in a 25-year span in the early 20th century and White doing so between 1974 and 1979. A host of jockeys sit just under that with three wins, the most recent of those being Glen Boss, Kerrin McEvoy and Damian Oliver.
With all three of those jockeys expected to be riding in the 2021 Melbourne Cup, there is every chance that one of them will join the illustrious group of four-time Melbourne Cup winning jockeys. That’s just one of many reasons why the 161st edition of the great race will make for compelling viewing, as 24 horses and jockeys try to write their name into Australian horse racing’s most celebrated history book.