WHAT IS IT It’s a gut-bustingly tough 3200-metre horse race at Flemington. That’s two miles in the old scale (give or take 19 yards), and is the longest Flat race in Australia.
It starts around 900m down the long Flemington straight sprint course. The field passes the winning post, to a thunderous ovation from the 100,000-strong crowd, then sets sail for a lap of the teardrop-shaped course proper. They turn for home with a torrid 450m run left to the post, and then someone’s life changes, like Michelle Payne’s did last year.
The winner of the 2016 Melbourne Cup will run approximately 3mins 20sec for the 3200m providing the track is good to dead. The current race record is 3:16.3 which was set by Kingston Rule in 1993.
WHAT’S AT STAKE A whopping $6.2 million, making it comfortably Australia’s richest race, the richest 3200m handicap in the world, and one of the top four races of any kind in the world (jostling with the Japan Cup and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe behind the No.1 – the Dubai World Cup). As a comparison to those other two, the Grand National is worth £1m and the Kentucky Derby $2,391,600.
The Cup winner earns $3.6 million. The trainer gets 10 per cent of that and the jockey five per cent. You almost get a million bucks just for coming second, at $900,000. And even the 10th horse earns $125,000, as do sixth to ninth.
There’s an 18-carat gold winner’s trophy – the famous three-handled “Loving Cup” – worth $150,000. The winning trainer and jockey each get a smaller one worth $10,000.
WHEN’S IT ON 4:05am, Tuesday 1st November. The bumper 10-race card begins at 00:40am UK time.
WHERE CAN YOU WATCH IT Live on Attheraces
WHY TUESDAY Originally, from its first staging in 1861 till 1875, it was run on a Thursday. What’s more, in 1867 it was even run in October. The Victorian Racing Club introduced what is still its four-day carnival in 1875, and the following year locked the Cup into the first Tuesday in November because it sounded better. And to “maximise the impact of the carnival”.
FIRST WINNER Archer, 1861. Everyone knows the thing walked all the way there from his home town of Nowra on the NSW south coast. Slightly fewer people know he won the second Cup as well. And then Arwon won it in 1978, which is Nowra backwards, but he didn’t walk.
LAST WINNER Prince Of Penzance (2015), who would have been the proverbial “despised” roughie at 100-1 had Michelle Payne not been aboard.
MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINERS The late Bart Cummings, with 12. Lee Freedman leads the contemporaries with five.
MOST SUCCESSFUL JOCKEYS Harry White (4), Damien Oliver, who rides Exospheric, (3) and Glen Boss (3) - all on Makybe Diva.
MOST SUCCESSFUL BARRIERS Barrier 11 (eight wins), barrier 14 (six), barrier eight (five).
WORST BARRIERS Barrier 18 (zero wins). Barrier 15 (once, in 1973). Barriers two, seven, 12 and 20 (two apiece).
MAIN CHALLENGERS Godolphin-owned Hartnell, formerly trained by Mark Johnston in the UK, heads the Australian defence now in the care of John O’Shea. He bolted up in the Group One Turnbull Stakes at Flemington in early October but was blown away by Winx in the Cox Plate last weekend.
There is also plenty of confidence behind Caulfield Cup winner Jameka despite her heavy defeat to Hartnell over 2000m at Flemington. She’ll be looking to become the 10th horse to do the Cups double, the first since Ethereal in 2001.
Godolphin’s UK trainers Charlie Appleby and Saeed bin Suroor saddle three of the leading UK hopes, not least Qewy who stayed on well to win the Geelong Cup on his only previous start in Australia, while Bondi Beach represents the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien, but he could only finish 16th in last year’s race.
Newmarket-trained Big Orange, fifth last year, is as tough a stayer as they come but he will need to produce something heroic under top weight.
Willie Mullins has managed a second and fourth from only two previous Melbourne Cup runners and his Wicklow Brave looks reasonably treated with 56kg, but Frankie Dettori has his work cut out from the widest gate.
2016 MELBOURNE CUP FIELD AND ODDS 1. Big Orange 57kg - 12/1 2. Our Ivanhowe 57kg - 40/1 3. Curren Mirotic 56.5kg - 25/1 4. Bondi Beach 56kg - 9/1 5. Exospheric 56kg - 20/1 6. Hartnell 56kg - 5/1 7. Who Shot Thebarman 56kg - 33/1 8. Wicklow Brave 56kg - 16/1 9. Almoonqith 54.5kg - 20/1 10. Gallante 54.5kg - 66/1 11. Grand Marshal 54.5kg - 40/1 12. Jameka 54.5kg - 15/2 13. Heartbreak City 54kg - 12/1 14. Sir John Hawkwood 54kg - 66/1 15. Excess Knowledge 53.5kg - 66/1 16. Beautiful Romance 52.5kg - 50/1 17. Almandin 52kg -16/1 18. Assign 52kg - 66/1 19. Grey Lion 52kg - 40/1 21. Secret Number 52kg - 40/1 22. Pentathlon 51.5kg - 100/1 23. Qewy 51.5kg - 25/1 24. Rose of Virginia 51kg - 300/1