The Melbourne Cup, one of the premier international horse racing events of the world, has been run today. And luckily we, Daughter and I, were invited to attend. Apart from the actual horse races run over the 4 days of the Spring Carnival, the Melbourne Cup is almost as importantly about dressing up, making an effort, you watching people watching you, and learning many life lessons. With this taking place whilst many are beautifully decorated (well, most of the time, although some do look like they should be out doing Halloween), Filly's and Freshmen, in Fascinators and Fedoras, Frocks and Fandangles.
It's very handy when such a prestigious event happens in your hometown. Fortunately, where others travel the world to attend, locals like us just have to jump on the train, and before too long be at the track with 100,000 of our closest friends!
Touted as "the race that stops a nation," it's one of the greatest days on the sporting and social calendar – the one day when everyone, young and old, stops to partake in this unique cultural event. It is now so ingrained in the Australian culture, that Crikey! we even have the day off work for it! But while Australians all over the continent (and expatriates too, I suspect) take part in the celebrations, nothing compares to being there to witness another chapter in this enduring story.
The $5.65 million (AUD) Emirates Melbourne Cup is the richest handicap race in the world and the centerpiece of the Melbourne Cup Spring Carnival. The history of the Cup dates back to 1861, where it was founded offering modest prize-money and a hand beaten gold watch. The uniqueness of the race stipulated handicap conditions and a distance of two miles.
It is a race built on dreams, on hard luck and triumph. It is also a race survived by tragedy. But while the Cup continues to evolve it will remain the greatest 3,200 meter horse race anywhere in the world and, by the nature of the conditions, arguably the most challenging to win.
What a great metaphor for life, really… all wrapped up in one 3-minute horse race.
Some of you may be questioning whether exposing the 11-year old to the gambling side of horse racing is a smart thing to do. Some of you may even be enraged and think me irresponsible. You are after all entitled to your opinion, and I, for one, will not try and change it. My logic, however, is as follows. The Melbourne Cup consumes our town on the first Tuesday in November every year. It has done so since I've been around, and it will do so for as long as is possible, whether we like it or not. The schools close, as do offices. So there is absolutely no point to trying to deny its existence. I therefore see the most sensible thing to do is to be the one who facilitates the introduction, who role models the appropriate behaviors, and who demonstrates how to be involved in horse racing, albeit responsibly. As well as appreciating all that is the Spring Carnival, and the Melbourne Cup.
To that end, we both had a little wager on the main race. Daughter won (that would be right!) and together we had picked not only first, but also second, third and fourth. Not bad for a first main race meet! It was very exciting. Daughter was absolutely chuffed with her approximately $15 in winnings, which will be socked away in her secret stash for when she wishes to purchase something of note. But that will be the last bet she has, or is remotely interested in, until next year's Cup. Everything in moderation.
So, what we learned today is that the Melbourne Cup race day, and the whole Spring Carnival in general, is not just about Fascinators and Horse Racing. It's not only about learning some more of life's lessons. It's also about being part of a town being allowed to get very excited for approximately 3 minutes a year, with their collective breath held; and once over, much celebration takes place. Regardless of whom you are, whom you know or why you came.
Celebrating life on such a large scale and with strangers standing side-by-side is definitely a good thing, especially when you can experience something so international so close to home.
the entrepreneurial mother™