Spring time in Australia means it’s horse racing season and of all the big races, nothing comes close to the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday of November.
With Lantern Club’s Melbourne Cup event approaching, we thought we’d look back at the history of the race that stops the nation.
The Melbourne Cup history goes back over 150 years when the first race was run at the Flemington Racecourse.

Seventeen horses contested the inaugural Melbourne Cup on Thursday 7 November 1861, racing for just 710 gold sovereigns cash and a hand-beaten gold watch, winner takes all. Although that sum was plenty of money for the time, the prize was not the largest racing purse that was seen in Australian racing. Today’s race is worth a cool $6.2 million. A decent crowd of 4,000 men and women watched that historical race, although it’s believed the news of the death of explorers Burke and Wills five days earlier on 2 November effected the crowd figures. The race today can be attended by up to 120,000 people and watched by millions on TV.

The first race was a dramatic one when one horse bolted early and three other horses dropped during the race, two of them died. But the race was won by Archer who was ridden by jockey John Cutts and was owned by famous trainer Etienne L. de Mestre. The 16.3 hand stallion from Sydney won the race over Victorian champion, Mormon, by six lengths (over 14 metres). 12 months later, Archer and Cutts would go on to dominate the second race as well!
Archer was due to race in the third cup in 1863, but due to the Victorian public holiday the trainer Etienne de Mestre’s acceptance form arrived late (which was done with telegram in those days), and Archer was scratched on a technicality. In protest of the controversial decision and in a show of solidarity, many of de Mestre’s owners boycotted the third race and scratched their horses in sympathy. As a result, the Melbourne Cup of that year ran with only seven starters, the smallest number in the history of the Cup. Today the cup is run every year with 24 runners.

Another change up in Melbourne Cup history is the length of the race. Up until 1972 the race was run over exactly two miles or 3219 metres. The race is now run over 3200 metres. The winning time of the first winner has increased significantly in modern times too. Archer’s win in the first Melbourne Cup took 3 min 52 seconds. In 1990, American horse Kingston Puzzle broke the race record with a blistering 3 min 16 seconds. The slowest winning time in the 21st century runnings of the Melbourne Cup was in 2004 when Makybe Diva won her first of three straight Melbourne Cup wins. The mare finished with a 3 min 28 seconds which was the slowest race win since the late 70s.


• Australia’s most legendary horse Phar Lap had a heart that weighed 6.2kg. The average horse heart weighs 3.2kg.
• Just five horses have won more than one Cup. Apart from Makybe Diva, they were Archer (1861 and 1862), Peter Pan (1932 and 1934), Rain Lover (1968 and 1969) and Think Big (1974 and 1975).
• The youngest jockey to win was Peter St. Albans on Briseis (1876). He was 12 years, 11 months and 23 days old at the time.
• With a record 12 Melbourne Cups and five quinellas (first and second placings in the same race), late great trainer Bart Cummings has earned the title ‘Cups King’. He won his first Cup aged just twenty-three.
• Fashions on the field was first held in 1962.


Come watch another history-making Melbourne Cup at Lantern Club. We’ve got an amazing day planned with sweeps, horse auction, best dressed and lucky door prizes as well as amazing MàZi food! And of course we will air the race on our big screens as well.
To book a table, call our friendly reception team on 8037 8200.