|Group I race|
Engraving of the finish line at the 1881 Melbourne Cup
|Distance||3,200 metres (2.0 miles)|
|Qualification||Three-year-olds and up|
The Melbourne Cup is
The Melbourne Cup has a long tradition, with the first race held in 1861. It was originally over two miles (3.219 km) but was shortened to 3,200 metres (1.988 mi) in 1972 when
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The race is a quality handicap for horses 3 years old and over, run over a distance of 3200 metres, on the first Tuesday in November at Flemington Racecourse. The minimum handicap weight is 50 kg. There is no maximum weight, but the top allocated weight must not be less than 57 kg. The weight allocated to each horse is declared by the VRC Handicapper in early September.
The Melbourne Cup race is a
Weights were theoretically calculated to give each horse an equal winning chance in the past, but in recent years the rules were adjusted to a "quality handicap" formula where superior horses are given less severe weight penalties than under pure handicap rules.
After the declaration of weights for the Melbourne Cup, the winner of any handicap flat race of the advertised value of A$55,000 or over to the winner, or an internationally recognised Listed, Group, or Graded handicap flat race, shall carry such additional weight (if any), for each win, as the VRC Handicapper shall determine.
Entries for the Melbourne Cup usually close during the first week of August. The initial entry fee is $600 per horse. Around 300 to 400 horses are nominated each year, but the final field is limited to 24 starters. Following the allocation of weights, the owner of each horse must on four occasions before the race in November, declare the horse as an acceptor and pay a fee. First acceptance is $960, second acceptance is $1,450 and third acceptance is $2,420. The final acceptance fee, on the Saturday prior to the race, is $45,375. Should a horse be balloted out of the final field, the final declaration fee is refunded.
The race directors retain the absolute discretion to exclude any horse from the race, or exempt any horse from the ballot on the race, but in order to reduce the field to the safety limit of 24, horses are balloted out based on a number of factors which include:
1000 prize money earned in the previous two years, 9 wins or placings in certain lead-up races 3 allocated handicap weight
The limitation of 24 starters is stated explicitly to be for safety reasons. However, in the past far larger numbers were allowed - the largest field ever raced was 39 runners in 1890.
International horses (New Zealand not included) that are entered for the Melbourne Cup must undergo quarantine in an approved premises in their own country for a minimum period of 14 days before travelling to Australia. The premises must meet the Australian Government Standards. The Werribee International Horse Centre at Werribee racecourse is the Victorian quarantine station for international horses competing in the