The Melbourne Cup might be run across the Tasman but still has a special place on the New Zealand sporting calendar.
The race that “stops a nation” in Australia, on the first Tuesday in November, also resonates with the New Zealand public and has a higher profile than any domestic horse race.
Punters placed 1.4 million bets with the New Zealand TAB on the 2016 Melbourne Cup and total turnover on the race was approximately $10.3 million, which is
Further interest is generated by a host of workplace sweepstakes on a race that usually has 24 runners. The two New Zealand thoroughbred meetings run on Melbourne Cup day - at Auckland and Dunedin - also do well and the total TAB turnover on the day, including sports betting, is around $20 million, making it the biggest betting day of the year. The influx of northern hemisphere runners in recent years has also raised the profile of the Melbourne Cup in Europe and Japan, making it one of the world’s most successful sporting brands.
The 3200m race, which places a premium on stamina, has been run at Flemington racecourse since 1861 and now has a stake of A$6 million, with a first prize of A$3.6 million. The top 10 finishers are rewarded for their efforts, with the horses placed from sixth to 10th earning A$125,000.
New Zealand success
One of the reasons that the Melbourne Cup has been so popular in New Zealand is that New Zealand-trained, bred or owned horses have a wonderful record in the race.
Martini Henry, in 1883, was the first New Zealand-bred winner and there have been another 41 since, including Phar Lap in 1930. The most recent New Zealand-bred winner was Prince of Penzance, in 2015, and New Zealand-bred horses won 20 times between 1960 and 1990.
New Zealand trainers have long been prepared to test their top stayers in the Melbourne Cup and Sasanof, in 1916, was the first New Zealand-trained winner.
The last three New Zealand-trained winners – Ethereal (2001), Jezabeel (1998) and Empire Rose (1988) – were all mares.
Kiwi (pictured), who was trained by Waverley farmer Snow Lupton, attracted attention through his name alone and recorded one of the most spectacular Melbourne Cup victories when he came from the tail of the field to win in 1983.