Melbourne’s annual Spring Racing Carnival captures the imagination of the public for close to three months each and every year, and this interest peaks during the eight-day period collectively known as the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Home to some of the biggest races in the country and indeed the world, this is everything you need to know about what is a thrilling week of racing.
Which races are included in the Melbourne Cup Carnival?
As the name suggests, the most significant race which takes place through this week-long carnival is the Melbourne Cup. Affectionately known as the Race That Stops a Nation – and one which stops plenty of people in other nations, too – the Melbourne Cup takes place on the first Tuesday of November each year, right in the middle of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The carnival begins a few days earlier on Victoria Derby Day, which falls on the Saturday prior and includes the Group 1 Victoria Derby as well as the Group 3 Hotham Handicap, the latter of which provides the final opportunity for a horse to get a start in the Melbourne Cup. Each and every race on this day is listed as a Group race, and it’s the only day on the calendar which can lay claim to this fact.
The Melbourne Cup Carnival then continues on the Thursday following the biggest race of them all with VRC Oaks Day, colloquially known as Ladies’ Day and headlined by the $1 million Group 1 VRC Oaks. Two days later, it ends on the Saturday with Stakes Day, named after the 2,000-metre weight-for-age Mackinnon Stakes, which generally attracts one of the best fields of stayers throughout the entirety of the Spring Racing Carnival.
When and where is the Melbourne Cup Carnival?
The exact dates of the Melbourne Cup Carnival vary from year to year, but are determined based on the Melbourne Cup itself, which is run each year on the first Tuesday of November. The carnival runs from the Saturday prior to that date through until the Saturday following it, which this year means that it will begin on the 30th of October and conclude on the 6th of November.
Though the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is spread across multiple race courses, all four of the feature days throughout the course of the Melbourne Cup Carnival take place at Flemington Racecourse. One of the most prestigious race tracks in the country, Flemington was first opened almost 200 years ago in 1840, and has long been an iconic part of racing in Australia. Host of the Melbourne Cup since its inauguration in 1861, the track is shaped similarly to a pear and is home to the renowned Flemington Straight, which stretches for 1,200 metres and has been the scene of innumerable classic finishes. It’s down this stretch of the track that the bulk of the spectators take their place, with up to 120,000 of them cheering home competitors on each given day of the carnival.
The Melbourne Cup Carnival is the crowning feature of the three-month long Spring Racing Carnival, with hundreds of thousands of spectators making their way to Flemington and millions more watching on at home every year. In 2021, it will begin on the 30th of October, and promises to be another quality eight days of racing.