How Much Do You Know About the Melbourne Cup?



By: Kale Havervold

6 Min Quiz

Image: Bob Thomas / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

While arguably the most famous horse race is the Kentucky Derby, horse racing is huge all around the world, not just in the USA. Several races get thousands of viewers in the stands and offer multi-million-dollar prizes to the winning horses and their teams. One of the biggest and best of them all is the Melbourne Cup. Taking place in Australia, this race has a long and storied history dating back well over 100 years, and it offers one of the biggest prize pools in horse racing today.

A lot has happened during the history of the Melbourne Cup, but how much of it do you know? Do you know how many horses race in it every year? How about when the race is run every year? If you want to test your knowledge or learn more about the race, you're in luck. 

This quiz is going to test your knowledge on all things Melbourne Cup. We will look at previous winners, strange happenings and a variety of other interesting facts and figures about the biggest horse race in Australia. Without any further ado, saddle up and get ready to test your knowledge of the Melbourne Cup and its long and storied history. 

When was the very first running of the Melbourne Cup?

The very first running of the Melbourne Cup took place way back in 1861, which mean it's existed as an event for over 150 years. It's one of the older major races out there and is more than a decade older than the Kentucky Derby.


Which race track is the Melbourne held at?

The Melbourne Cup is held every year at the Flemington Racecourse. It opened back in 1840 and holds many of the other most popular horse races in the area, as well. It has a crowd capacity that sits over 120,000.


What is the current total prize money for the Melbourne Cup?

As of 2018, the prize money for the Melbourne Cup is a cool $7.3 million. Of that, the winner takes $4 million, second gets $1 million and the rest of the top 12 is paid out smaller amounts of the pool.


Many horse races are specifically for horses of a certain age. How old are the horses that run in the Melbourne Cup?

The Melbourne Cup is held for horses that are 3 years old or older. Despite this, there have been few 3-year-olds that have won the race recently. In fact, the 2017 winner was the first time since 1941 that a 3-year-old won the race.


While the race is currently set at two miles, that wasn't always the case. What year did the race officially become two miles long?

The race was originally longer than the two miles it is now by about 19 meters. In 1972, the race was shortened down to exactly two miles, as Australia adopted the metric system. Race record times were adjusted to reflect this change.


What is the initial entry fee (per horse) for the Melbourne Cup?

While some other acceptance fees will need to be paid, the initial entry fee for a horse in the Melbourne Cup is only $600. There are hundreds of horses nominated every single year, but a far fewer number will actually line up on race day.


Which year did they first award a trophy to the winner?

Despite the race beginning in 1861, the first trophy wasn't awarded until 1865. Prizes were still given, but not an official trophy. For example, a gold watch was the award for the winner of the first race back in 1861.


The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May, but when does the Melbourne Cup take place?

Most horse races happen on the same day every year, and the Melbourne Cup is no different. The Cup takes place on the first Tuesday of November and has since way back in 1875. There have been a few that have been postponed or moved, however.


Which horse won the very first running of the race?

A horse named Archer won the very first Melbourne Cup. Not only would he win the first, but he would also go on to win the second. He won them both easily and is one of only a few horses to win multiple Melbourne Cups.


Who was the youngest jockey to ever win a Melbourne Cup?

Peter St. Albans is the youngest jockey ever to win the Melbourne Cup. While he was officially 13, according to race officials, he was actually 11 on the day he won the race. This record will never be broken, as 13 is the minimum age for a jockey.


Why did a horse named Phar Lap have to be hidden ahead of the 1930 Melbourne Cup?

Heading into the 1930 race, Phar Lap was a huge favorite, and many expected the horse to win. However, there was a major scare ahead of the race, as it was discovered someone had attempted to shoot the horse.


How many horses raced in the first Melbourne Cup?

While the amount of horses racing has varied from year to year, the very first race had only 17 racers. However, three of them fell during the race, and one of the horses ran way before the start.


This horse shocked the world by winning the race in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Who are they?

Only one horse has ever won three Melbourne Cups, and it was a mare named Makybe Diva. Not only did she win three, but she won three in a row from 2003-2005. This is a huge accomplishment and one that may never be matched.


Which year's winner set the current record at the Melbourne Cup?

Many amazing and legendary horses have run this race and put up amazing times. However, no horse has run it as fast as Kingston Rule. In 1990, the horse set the record of 3:16.3, which still stands almost 30 years later.


What is the widest margin of winning in the history of the race?

Many horse races are decided by well under a length, but that wasn't the case in 1862 and 1968. In these races, the winners won by a huge margin of eight lengths. This margin of victory is around 68 feet or so.


Race day is a public holiday in the state of Victoria, but which year was the holiday first officially recognized?

While many industries and companies who take days off or half-days for the race, the Melbourne Cup was officially named a public holiday in the state of Victoria until 1877.


Which horse became the first foreign-bred horse to win the race?

The very first foreign-bred horse to win the Melbourne Cup was Comedy King, way back in 1910. The horse was bred in England and bought and shipped to Australia, where it was trained and eventually won the Melbourne Cup.


What was the smallest field in the history of the Melbourne Cup?

While the race has typically nearly quadruple this amount, only seven horses ran in the 1863 Melbourne Cup. This was because many owners boycotted the race, which left only seven to run. They boycotted because the previous two-time winner was scratched due to a technicality.


Who won the 2018 Melbourne Cup?

The 2018 running of the Melbourne Cup took place on November 6th, 2018, and was won by Cross Counter. He was the first British-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup. He's only just turned 4 but has won numerous races in his short career so far.


What is the attendance record at the Melbourne Cup?

The Melbourne Cup has seen some large crowds, but none bigger than the crowd at the 2003 event, which was 122,736 people. 2003 was also the first year of the Melbourne Cup Tour, which likely helped garner a larger audience.


Why was the 1870 running of the race postponed for a week?

While the Melbourne Cup is a huge deal and many people plan for it well in advance, the weather doesn't always agree. In 1870, the race had to be postponed for an entire week as the track was so waterlogged that it was deemed too dangerous.


Which year was the very first that the race was filmed?

The very first Melbourne Cup that was ever filmed was way back in 1896. Despite this, the Cup wasn't broadcast on the radio until 1925 and wasn't first shown on TV in Australia until 1960.


The race was changed to Saturdays from 1942-1944. Why was this the case?

During the years of WWII, the Melbourne Cup was run on Saturdays instead of Tuesdays. While many athletic and sporting events were canceled during these years, the Melbourne Cup just decided to shift dates.


What is the limit for how many horses can race in the Melbourne Cup?

In the modern-day, there is a 24-horse limit at the Melbourne Cup. This limit is for the safety of the horses themselves and their jockeys. With any additional riders, there's a higher risk of accidents or crashes.


How many times did trainer Bart Cummings win the Melbourne Cup?

A horse trainer is one of the most important people when it comes to the success of a run. No trainer has been more prolific in the history of the Melbourne Cup than Bart Cummings. He won 12 Cups as a trainer, more than twice the amount of the next closest.


Which nation had the top seven finishers in the 2012 running of the Melbourne Cup?

While you might not have expected it, the 2012 Melbourne Cup was dominated by the Irish. The winner and the next six horses to cross the finish line were all Irish. There were a few other Irish-trained horses that had solid finishes, as well.


Of these famous owners, who has the most Melbourne Cup wins with six?

There have been many successful horse owners who have had their horses run the Melbourne Cup, but only Lloyd Williams sits at the top of the ladder with six wins. That is two more than his next closest competition.


Throughout the history of the race, what percentage of favorites have won?

While you would expect favorites to have a pretty good record at the Melbourne Cup, that's not the case. Favorites have only won 23% of the time at the Melbourne Cup, which equates to only 34 wins.


How old was the oldest horse to win the Cup?

While horse racing is generally for younger horses, there are a few older horses who have defied the odds. Throughout the history of the Melbourne Cup, two horses (Toryboy and Catalogue) won the race as 8-year-olds.


Many horses have run the race multiple times, but which horse ran it a record six times?

No horse has run in the Melbourne Cup more times than Shadow King. He ran in the race six times in seven years. Unfortunately, he was never able to win but came very close on a number of different occasions.


Which year did the Melbourne Cup become the first Australian horse race with prize winnings of $1 million?

While prizes today are millions of dollars for the race, that wasn't always the case. The first Melbourne Cup to have a total prize of a million dollars was 1985. The winner took home $650,000 of that $1 million.


What is "Fashions on the Field"?

Fashion at the racetrack has become almost as big as the race itself, and this is no different in Melbourne. The "Fashions on the Field" is an outdoor fashion event where there's a substantial prize for the best-dressed woman and man at the race.


An unfortunate event took place during the 1881 Melbourne Cup. What was it?

During the 1881 running of the race, a dog ran onto the track and startled many of the horses. John Dodd's horse was forced into the rails, and Dodd suffered multiple injuries. He passed away two weeks later due to his injuries.


What was the largest field in Melbourne Cup history?

While the race can no longer have this many horses racing, there was not a limit back in 1890, when a record 39 horses ran in the Melbourne Cup. The winner was Carbine, one of the most famous horses of their time.


Who was the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup?

In 2015, Melbourne Cup history was made when Michelle Payne became the first female jockey ever to win the race. The horse she rode was also one of the biggest underdog winners, at 100-1 odds.


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