The Melbourne Cup explained: When is it, how to watch, favourites, prize money and more


The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most famous race, with a 160-year history as part of the nation’s sporting calendar.

Through both World Wars, the Spanish flu pandemic and now the COVID-19 pandemic, the Melbourne Cup has been held without fail every year since 1861.

So when will this year’s race be? How can you watch? How long will it take? Who are the favourites?

Read on to find the answers to these questions and more.

When is the Melbourne Cup?

For the first 14 years of its existence, the Cup was held on a Thursday in early November.

From 1875 onwards, with only four exceptions (the 1916 and 1942-44 Cups were held on Saturdays) the race has been held on the first Tuesday of November.

Once again, in 2021, that tradition is being maintained, with Cup Day down for November 2 — the first Tuesday of the month.

Where is the Melbourne Cup held?

Just as the scheduling has stayed pretty much the same for more than 150 years, so has the location of Australia’s most famous race.

The Melbourne Cup is held at Flemington racecourse, less than 7 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD.

What time is the Melbourne Cup run?

The Melbourne Cup is race seven on Cup Day — it will start at 3:00pm AEDT (Melbourne/Sydney/Canberra/Hobart), which is 2:30pm ACDT (Adelaide), 2:00pm AEST (Brisbane), 1:30pm ACST (Darwin), and midday AWST (Perth).

How do I watch the race?

If you have free-to-air television, Channel 10 and will be the Melbourne Cup Day broadcasters.

For those with pay-TV, Sky Racing will show the Melbourne Cup but on a slight delay.

If you need to stream the Melbourne Cup, 10Play will provide live and on-demand coverage, while Kayo Sports subscribers will be able to view the race.

You can also follow the action in ABC Sport’s live blog, which will cover all the action on Cup Day from 10am AEDT.

How many people will be at Flemington for Melbourne Cup Day?

A throng of people wearing hats, suits and dresses are packed into the Flemington grandstand before a Melbourne Cup.
The crowd for this year’s Melbourne Cup will be a lot smaller than the throng that turned up too see Macdougal win in 1959.  (Getty images / GHI / Universal History Archive)

A maximum of 10,000 patrons will be allowed at Flemington racecourse for Cup day.

Of the available tickets, 7,000 (70 per cent) will be allocated to Victoria Racing Club (VRC) members. Most of the rest will go to owners of horses entered in the day’s races, corporate partners and sponsors.

Five per cent of the total tickets (500) will be available for the general public.

How long does the Melbourne Cup take?

The “race that stops a nation” takes a little more than three minutes.

The slowest winning times came in the first-ever Cup in 1861 (won by Archer) and the fourth edition in 1864 (won by Lantern). In both races the winner crossed the line in three minutes 52 seconds.

The race record for the Melbourne Cup was set in 1990 when the Bart Cummings-trained Kingston Rule won in 3:16.30.

Who are the favourites for this year’s Melbourne Cup?

Brett Prebble celebrates on board Incentivise in the Caulfield Cup
Brett Prebble and Incentivise were well clear on the line in an impressive Caulfield Cup win.(Getty images: Vince Caligiuri)

The hot favourite for this year’s Melbourne Cup is Incentivise, a star horse trained by Peter Moody.

The five-year-old gelding only won his first race in April this year — at his last start, earlier this month, he raced three-wide the whole way in the $5 million Caulfield Cup before comfortably beating his rivals to win by three-and-a-half lengths.

Incentivise is the $2.30 favourite. The only other entry under $10 in the market is international raider Spanish Mission, trained in England by Andrew Balding. Spanish Mission is at $8 while last year’s winner Twilight Payment, trained by Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien, is on the next line of betting at $12.

What is the prize money for the Melbourne Cup?

A solid gold trophy sits on a table in front of an archway with "Melbourne Cup Day" on it at Flemington race
The Melbourne Cup trophy is worth $250,000, part of the $8 million in prizes for the race that stops the nation.(Getty Images / Racing Photos: Scott Barbour)

The Melbourne Cup offers prizes worth $8 million.

The owners, jockey and trainer of the winner receive total prize money of $4.4 million, plus the 18-carat, solid gold Melbourne Cup trophy which is worth $250,000 on its own.

The runner-up receives $1.1 million, third place gets $550,000, fourth place receives $350,000 and the fifth horse over the line wins $230,000.

The horses who finish sixth to 12th each receive $160,000.


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