The race that stops the nation: The most memorable Melbourne Cup moments

Nov 03, 2019
Flemington Racecourse has forever been the home to the Melbourne Cup. Source: Getty.

At three in the afternoon on the first Tuesday of November, Australia comes to a standstill as the nation’s best racehorses hit the ground running at the beloved Flemington Racecourse in Victoria. Since the very first race in 1861, the Melbourne Cup has captivated the country as it turned from a simple horserace into a cultural event filled with big hats, betting and lots of booze.

As the fastest Thoroughbreds in the game get ready to take to the stage this year, it only seems fitting to recall the most memorable moments in the cup’s history. So here are those unforgettable moments that are guaranteed to still give you goosebumps all these years on!

Phar Lap’s legacy

With a monster heart that’s one and a half times bigger than average and a stride that to this day remains unmatched, Phar Lap will always be remembered as one of Australia’s most prized possessions. However, in 1930, his legacy was finally sealed when he won his first Melbourne Cup title against all odds.

With the shortest odds in the race’s history, Phar Lap almost never made it to the starting line after being shot at days prior to the race. After surviving an attempted assassination, the champion horse then ran the race with an enormous 62.5kg handicap for his age group. He took the win with ease and finally solidified his status as a legend in the racing world.

The Cup’s King

Bart cummings 2008 melbourne cup win
Bart Cummings and his horse, Viewed, took out the 2008 Melbourne Cup title. Source: Getty.

Through hard work and a record number of wins, trainer Bart Cummings’ name has now become synonymous with the Melbourne Cup. In 2008, Cummings deservedly earned his title of “The Cup’s King” after taking his 12th horse over the line in first place by a nose.

Celebrations were definitely in order as unofficial royalty status was bestowed upon Cummings after achieving a goal that no one else has even gotten close to before or since. Along with his impressive record in the Melbourne Cup, he’s also won 13 Australian Cups, seven Caulfield Cups, eight Newmarket Handicaps and nine VRC Oaks.

Damien Oliver’s emotional win

Damien Oliver wins melbourne cup
Damien Oliver won the race on the horse Media Puzzle in 2002. Source: Getty.

After already losing his father on the racetrack years earlier, Damien Oliver’s world was torn apart when his older brother Jason tragically died after a race fall in the week leading up to the Cup.

With the loss fresh in his mind, the grieving jockey almost missed the big day, however in the end he decided to ride as a tribute to his brother. When he crossed the line in first place he shot his hand up to the sky as an emotional sign to his lost family members.

A tearful Oliver then spoke to the crowd on the day saying: “The Melbourne Cup doesn’t mean anything to me any more. I’d give it away right now to have my brother back. But I know it was the right thing to ride. Jason would have wanted that.”

Makybe Diva’s hat trick

makybe diva wins melbourne cup
Glen Boss rode Makybe Diva to a record hat trick win in 2005. Source: Getty.

She’s become a modern legend thanks to her achievements on the racecourse and has successfully stolen the hearts of Aussies everywhere after her iconic hat trick in 2005. Following two consecutive wins in the years prior, all eyes were on the mare as she lined up to race.

The tension was palpable as trainer Tony Santic and jockey Glenn Boss prepared to make Melbourne Cup history. With a kicker of a race, the beloved horse came in first and immediately afterwards retired on the biggest high of her career and possibly that of any of horse in the history of the race.

Gai Waterhouse’s first win

gai waterhouse melbourne cup
Gai Waterhouse won her first Melbourne Cup in 2013. Source: Getty.

Known as the First Lady of Australian racing, Gai Waterhouse comes from a lineage of racing greats, including her father Tommy Smith. And although winning is in her blood, it took the star trainer a while to crack the country’s biggest race – but in 2013, she finally did it.

The win saw jockey Damien Oliver riding Fiorente to the finish line snagging the title that solidified Waterhouse as the first Australian woman to train a winner of the race. It was a longtime coming for the famous trainer and business woman who said on the day that it was nice to be in the same ranks as her father finally.

Michelle Payne’s history-making win

Michelle payne Melbourne cup
Michelle Payne and her brother Stevie, who works as a strapper at the stables, celebrate her win. Source: Getty.

It’s hard to believe that in 153 years of the race, a female jockey had never taken the title – but in 2015, Michelle Payne changed everything. Riding Prince of Penzance to the finish line, Payne stuck it to the male-dominated industry as she took the win.

The horse was barely thought about prior to the race with fixed odds at a staggering $101 – which made a few lucky punters very rich after Payne nabbed the prize. She’s still remembered for famously celebrating her win by saying “get stuffed” to the critics who didn’t believe she could do it.

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What was your favourite Melbourne Cup moment? How do you usually celebrate the race?

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