The Melbourne Cup is the most famous thoroughbred horse race in Australia. It is often called “the race that stops the nation” and parties are held to celebrate the race across the whole country. It is a 3,200 meter (almost 3500 yards or 2 miles) handicap race, which means that each horse carries a specified weight with the intent of equalizing the field. The total prize pool in 2013 was almost $6.2 million, which makes it the richest “two mile” handicapped race in the world. The race is open to horses over four years of age and there are a number of ways that a horse can qualify for the race. The race is held at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Victoria and is attended by more than 100,000 spectators. The first Melbourne Cup was held back in 1861, although the first trophy for the race wasn’t awarded until 1865. Let’s find out which horse was the first to win this prestigious race.
Who won the first Melbourne Cup?
The first winner of the Melbourne Cup was the horse Archer (pictured), who was ridden by jockey John Cutts and owned and trained by Etienne de Mestre. The first race, with 17 starters, was very eventful and three of the horses fell during the race (two of these died), one horse bolted off the track and two jockeys broke bones. Archer passed the favorite, Mormon, at the final turn and went on to win easily by six lengths. This was an astonishing win because Archer had been injured during training a few days before the race. Etienne de Mestre won 710 gold sovereigns and a hand beaten gold watch as a trophy. Archer’s time of 3:52.0 remains the slowest winning time in the race.
The next year Archer won the Melbourne Cup for the second time and remains one of only four horses to win successive cups! He was again ridden by jockey John Cutts and trained by Etienne de Mestre.
Did you know?
The Melbourne Cup is open to Australian and international horses, but international horses must undergo a special 14 day quarantine to be approved entry into Australia.
De Mestre went on to train 3 more Melbourne Cup winners (Tim Whiffler in 1867, Chester in 1877 and Calamia in 1878).
After racing Archer was retired and was offered to breeders for a stud fee of 10 guineas (a very high price at the time). However, none of his offspring reached the heights of their father! He died at the age of 16 in December 1872 when he ate too much green barley and died from inflammation of the lungs. His jockey, John Cutts, had died just three months earlier!