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Australia geared for “the race that stops a nation”

A crowd of 100,000 people are expected to descend on Flemington Racecourse on Tuesday for the 2017 Melbourne Cup.

‘The race that stops a nation’ is the most prosperous handicap race in the world, with prize money of $6.2m available this year, and a rich history dating back over 150 years.

Ahead of the race, at 4am tomorrow (Tuesday 7th November) UK time, SBC contacted Melbourne Cup hosts Victoria Racing Club (VRC), who supplied the following information.

SBC: How significant is the Melbourne Cup?

VRC: The jewel in the Melbourne Cup Carnival crown is the Emirates Melbourne Cup, a 3200m Group 1 staying race, one of the world’s richest, offering A$6.25 million (US$4.87 million) in prize money.

It is the world’s richest handicap race and the world’s richest 3200m (two mile) race. Unsurprisingly it draws competitors from across the globe with the annual journey of northern hemisphere-trained stayers making it a truly international event.

But it is much more than just a horse race; it is a 156-year-old social and cultural tradition that literally brings Australia to a standstill.

The Emirates Melbourne Cup is universally known in Australia as ‘the race that stops a nation’, because almost the entire country stops to watch the race at 3pm (Australian EDT) on the first Tuesday of each November.

Remarkably, Emirates Melbourne Cup Day is even a public holiday in its home city, while the day before the race the city streets are closed for a parade celebrating the race’s trainers and jockeys – such is the significance of the race to Melburnians.

The recent history of the Emirates Melbourne Cup is characterised by a phenomenon of incredible internationalisation since Ireland’s Vintage Crop won the race in 1993, with a number of winners coming from across Europe and Asia.

In 2015 Victoria’s own Prince of Penzance won the Emirates Melbourne Cup, elevating his jockey Michelle Payne into the history books as the first female jockey to win the race, while last year owner Lloyd Williams clinched a record fifth Emirates Melbourne Cup when Almandin secured a narrow victory over Heartbreak City.

SBC: What is the interest from a betting perspective?

VRC: Domestic wagering turnover on the 2016 Melbourne Cup Carnival exceeded $600 million for the first time.

The four days of the 2016 Melbourne Cup Carnival generated record domestic and international wagering, with total turnover up by 10% to more than $657 million.

Oaks Day was a standout performer with total Wagering Service Providers (WSP) turnover increasing to $84.4 million – easily eclipsing the previous meeting record of $71.4 million set in 2014.

Total WSP turnover on Emirates Stakes Day topped $100 million for the first time making it the fifth meeting to achieve that mark within the 2016 Spring Racing Carnival.

This can be partly attributed to the Mackinnon Stakes/Cantala Stakes swap which resulted in a 15.8% or $13.7m increase in domestic wagering in total for Emirates Stakes Day.

There was also a $219,157 or 1.16% increase in wagering on the Emirates Stakes (compared to the Cantala Stakes last year).

And a $409,434 or 2.18% increase in wagering on the Emirates Stakes (compared to the Mackinnon Stakes on Derby Day last year).

The Melbourne Cup Carnival was also warmly embraced by international punters with the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) generating a record $62.7 million in turnover – an increase of 3.9% on 2015 despite the number of races wagered on decreasing this year from 18 to 17.

Japanese punters were also permitted to bet on the Emirates Melbourne Cup for the first time with $8.73 million wagered on the race in which the lone Japanese entrant Curren Mirotic finished unplaced at long odds.

SBC: How does it compete on a global scale, in respect to some of the other highlights of the racing calendar?

VRC: The Emirates Melbourne Cup is now broadcast into more than 160 territories, promoting the event and Melbourne around the globe to millions of people.

The heritage-listed Flemington Racecourse hosts seven other Group 1 feature races during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, which creates a celebratory atmosphere unparalleled at any other world sporting event.

While a racing event at its core, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is an annual celebration that combines the very best of what Melbourne has to offer – fashion, food and wine, sport, celebrity, business, and social interaction.

In 2016, more than 36 per cent of attendees were out-of-state visitors to Victoria, with the Carnival injecting more than A$427 million (US$333 million) of gross economic benefit into the economy.

Racegoers – both women and men – go to such effort to dress for the occasion that the Carnival provides a boost to the fashion retail sector matched only by the Christmas rush. In 2016, racegoers spent almost A$33 million ($US26 million) on nearly 300,000 fashion items specifically to wear to the four days at Flemington, including 60,000 hats and fascinators, 46,000 dresses, 49,000 pairs of shoes, 19,000 handbags, 13,000 shirts and 12,000 suits.

Host of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington, is the world’s largest member-based racing club, with more than 30,000 members.

In a landmark move, the 2016 Emirates Melbourne Cup was streamed via Twitter to a global audience – the first Twitter live streaming deal anywhere in the world outside of the United States.  The one-hour stream was available free of charge to Twitter’s worldwide audience of more than 800 million registered and non-registered users on the Twitter platform on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.

The #MelbourneCup hashtag reached number one on Twitter in 25 locations (up from 18 in 2015) and trended in 12 countries and 168 cities, while on Emirates Melbourne Cup Day tweet impressions reached 1 million – more than double the number recorded in 2015 (430,000) and the VRC’s biggest day ever.

The 2017 Emirates Melbourne Cup will again this year be streamed to an Australian and global audience on Twitter.

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