For over a century and a half, crowds have gathered at Flemington on the second Tuesday in November to take part in what has become one of our country’s iconic moments. Just around four thousand spectators witnessed the inaugural (Thursday) run, and Archer’s victory, back in 1861, but as we move into the third decade of the 20th century, six-figure crowds were starting to become a regular feature of the day. In present times, from 2007 onwards, tickets had to be pre-purchased. Today, it’s the place to be, and perhaps be seen, with its hugely popular Fashion Carnival, as well as a card of ten terrific races.
Moving forward towards the present day, the introduction of so many different online media possibilities means that an audience of many millions, spread far and wide across the globe, tune in and share the thrill as the two dozen selected as the starting Melbourne Cup field take their places and prepare to thunder around those 3,200 unforgiving metres.
It’s an unpredictable handicap - past Melbourne Cup results show that around one in four of the pre-race favourites makes it first past the winning post. This makes the betting market more fluid, and encourages everyone, whether a committed horse race better or someone who places one bet a year, to have a go at picking out that Melbourne Cup champion for the year.
Although it might seem as if it all happens in the early part of November, in fact, the Melbourne Cup field begin to take shape as far back as the start of September. Although there was once a record field of almost forty runners, the race is now contested by a maximum of twenty-four starters. Yet, back in September, up to 400 horses are initially entered for the race – not surprising when you consider the prestige that winning brings; oh and the $6.2 million prize fund!
How does that 400 become just 24?
After those initial entries, weights are then allocated for each horse. Following this, an exhaustive balloting process is undertaken. At a further four stages, every owner must again confirm their horse as an ‘acceptor’ and pay the relevant further fee. After this process, the final 24 runners are chosen. These are then announced on the Saturday evening before the Tuesday race day, which is organised under the direction of the Victorian Racing Club.
This is a staying handicap, open only to horses that are three years or older. The process by which every horse is handicapped, meaning they have are given a minimum weight they must carry, is achieved by adding any necessary ballast to the riding gear. The trend is that the older entries are likely to be more heavily weighted than the younger ones.
Several horses will be exempt from the balloting process, having won one of the qualifying races, which includes other great events such as the Cox Plate or Caulfield Cup. For the remaining places, key elements such as previous results, victories and placings, total prize money from the past two years, and the allocated handicap weight will all be in the mix.
As you look for Melbourne Cup tips or favourable odds, the good news is that we provide great form guides and odds comparisons tools to help you enjoy choosing and placing your Melbourne Cup wager.
Melbourne Cup Field and Odds
If it’s early in September, but your thoughts are already turning towards the Melbourne Cup, then you are likely to be a serious punter, rather than one who sees the race as a bit of fun and the chance to place what might be your only bet of the year.
Why September? Well, it’s at the start of that month when the initial nominations are released. This list can feature between three and four hundred horses – and the owners have to declare as an ‘acceptor’ and pay fees at each stage of the acceptances process. This carries right through to the Saturday before the Tuesday race day itself.
On that night, at around 7.30pm, the final field will be confirmed. This will include horses that have gained automatic entry by winning one of several key earlier season races, such as the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup. The others will have survived the balloting process, where factors such as career earnings, wins and placings, and the handicap weights allotted, will all be part of the considerations.
So that’s how hundreds eventually become just two dozen. No doubt, people you know such as work colleagues, friends and family will be happy to offer you some Melbourne Cup tips. They might even be right, as it’s usually a wide open race, now just slightly shorter than the original two miles, and with around only one in four favourites winning. Mind you, it’s not surprising so many enter their horses, with a prize fund of $6.2m and a trophy to keep, valued at around $175,000, for the winning owner!
Understanding the form and checking the Melbourne Cup odds
When we mentioned the initial process starting in September, that’s where we begin to offer you some valuable help in choosing both your horses and then which bets to place.
For the former, our detailed form guides start in September and are then updated on a weekly basis until the final nominations have been announced. Some punters will have taken advantage of the more generous pre-field odds, known as the futures markets or ante-post odds. Of course, your chosen horses then have to make a successful progress through all the nomination stages!
After the 24 are known, you can examine in detail their record, the jockey’s form, how the animal likes to race, and possible ground or weather conditions. Reaching your final decisions, making those key choices sees you ready to enter the betting market.
This is where our excellent and detailed odds comparison tool can be a real friend. We have created it to measure the TAB against the many other leading online bookmaking organisations. This allows you to check for yourself where you feel your punts should be placed.
Once all this is accomplished, all you need then is for your chosen steed to ride to everlasting Melbourne Cup glory!