augusta free press news

4 facts you may not know about the Melbourne Cup

horse racing
(© Daren Whitaker –

Think that you know all there is to know about the Melbourne Cup? Think again. We’ve delved deep into the archives to find some of the lesser known facts about the biggest race in the country, and these are four of the most interesting that we stumbled across.

  1. The unluckiest barrier

The Melbourne Cup has been run on 160 occasions in total, but incredibly, in all that time no horse has ever been able to get the win after jumping from barrier 18. This barrier holds the ignominious record all on its lonesome – horses have won from every other barrier up to number 24. In contrast, barrier 5 has been the most fruitful, with eight winners jumping from it, while nine other barriers have seen seven winners. Drawing a wide barrier is clearly something of a disadvantage, but nonetheless it’s something of a quirk that no horse in history has managed to win from number 18.

  1. Think Big: The Cup day specialist

In 1975, Think Big achieved what only four other horses in history have ever managed when he won his second Melbourne Cup – and, incidentally, his second in two years. Prior to that win, however, he had not exactly been setting the world on fire. Between the 1974 and 1975 Melbourne Cup victories, Think Big didn’t manage to win a solitary race, and even came second last in the Mackinnon Stakes just prior to his second Cup victory. As a result he was given little chance in the big race and jumped at odds of $33, but perhaps he had just been saving it for the biggest stage, because he promptly went on to win it a second time in a row.

  1. The youngest ever jockey

Peter St Albans holds the record for the youngest ever jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, and it’s not particularly close. Unsurprisingly, it happened a while ago, with his win coming way back in 1876 when he led Briseis to victory. There is some conjecture about his age, with claims being made that he was anywhere from 11 to 13 years of age, but the most commonly accepted belief is that he was just a few days short of his 12th birthday. The minimum legal age for a jockey to ride in the Cup at the time was 13, however he managed to sneak under the radar to ride Briseis to a win and himself into the record books.

  1. A bouquet like no other

If you’ve ever been to or even watched the Melbourne Cup, you will have noticed that Flemington is home to a whole lot of flowers, with roses a particular feature of the floral arrangement. Exactly how many, however, will come as a shock to even the most fervent of anthophiles. In total, there are a whopping 16,000 rose bushes scattered throughout Flemington, and over 1,000 hours of manual labour each year goes into ensuring they are in tip-top condition come the biggest day of the year.

With 160 years of history, there is plenty to learn about the Melbourne Cup. Most horse racing fans know the basics – that it was first run in 1861, that Makybe Diva is the only horse to win three times and so on – but there are plenty of quirky Melbourne Cup facts to learn as well, and the above four are some of the most interesting that we found.

Story by Tony Hooton