The Melbourne Cup will take place in front of a global TV audience of 750 million people on November 3. The world’s greatest stayers will battle it out for a multimillion-dollar prize pool, and a great deal of drama and excitement is guaranteed. This year’s Melbourne competition will be a little different due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so we have compiled a full guide to the race that stops a nation:
What is the Prize Money for the 2023 Melbourne Cup?
Prize money for the Melbourne competition will remain at a cool $8 million this year. Many races have seen their prize purses slashed as a result of the pandemic, but the Melbourne trophy has not suffered the same fate.
It offered just 710 gold sovereigns and a hand-beaten watch as prize money when the race was first run in 1861. It steadily crept up over the years and hit $1 million in 1985. The prize purse stood at $4.6 million by 2004 and rose to $6.2 million by 2012.
That figure then jumped to $7.3 million in 2018 and $8 million last year. It will not increase again in 2023, but standing still is a great result in the current climate. The industry has lost a significant revenue stream this year, as it has been unable to welcome spectators into racecourses, causing several famous races to suffer a dip in prize money.
It makes the Melbourne trophy the sixth richest race of 2023, after only the Saudi, The Everest, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Japan and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe trophies. The Dubai World Cup, Dubai Turf and Sheema Classic were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Will Flemington Racecourse Welcome Spectators?
Most racing has been held behind closed doors this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Spring Racing Carnival is now well underway in Victoria, and fans are still unable to watch the action live.
The organisers of the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate are therefore resigned to being unable to welcome any spectators. However, there is still a glimmer of hope for the Melbourne prize.
Two weeks ago, Victoria Racing Club submitted a proposal for between 10,000 and 15,000 spectators to attend Melbourne Cup Day. That would be a significant reduction on the 81,408 that attended last year, and way down on the record 122,736 spectators that watched the race in 2003, but it would still provide a bit of atmosphere.
“We are in regular discussions with the state government as to how we may be able to safely welcome small crowds to the competition week,” said VRC chief executive Neil Wilson. “No decision on crowds for the Cup week has been made. The decision ultimately lies with the state government and will depend on public health advice.”
It has not yet been given the green light to allow spectators, but Covid-19 cases continue to decrease and VRC is still working on a plan. Most people will watch the race at home anyway, and it promises to be a thrilling three-and-a-half minutes.
Will Foreign Raiders Take Part in the 2023 Melbourne Cup?
Many famous international trainers have still found ways to send their finest stayers to Australia to compete in the big race. Irish maestro Aidan O’Brien put six horses into quarantine last month and they are now in Australia. Three of them – Irish Derby winner Santiago and runner-up Tiger Moth, plus 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck – are scheduled to compete in the championship.
Handicapper Greg Carpenter handed Anthony Van Dyck top weight for the Melbourne Cup as a penalty for his impressive form, but the lightly race Tiger Moth carries just 52.5kg and looks interesting. You can find out more about the weights of the various contenders of 2023 at Punters.
O’Brien’s son Joseph, who beat his father to Melbourne Cup glory in 2017, will have Twilight Payment and Master of Reality, who finished fourth last year, in the race.
German trainer Andreas Wohler’s Ashrun is expected to line up, along with Willie Mullins’ True Self and Stratum Albion. Charlie Fellowes will return with Prince of Arran, while Andrew Balding’s Dashing Willoughby is also due.
Which Australian Stayers are in Contention?
Danny O’Brien ended a 10-year drought for Australian trainers when he saddled Melbourne Cup winner Vow and Declare last year. The champion will return for another crack at glory, but he has been lumbered with a significant weight increase this time around.
O’Brien’s best chance this year could be Russian Camelot, who breezed to victory in the SA Derby back in the autumn. He has since won the Group 1 Underwood Stakes and finished second in both the Makybe Diva Stakes and the Neds Stakes. O’Brien will also have King of Leogrance, Orderofthegarter, and Saracen Knight gunning for glory.
Surprise Baby, who finished fifth last year, while Chris Waller has a strong hand, featuring the likes of Finche. Oceanex and Persan are guaranteed ballot exemptions, and Sir Dragonet, Maher and Eustace could also contest the race.
Can a Mare Finally Win the Prize?
The wondermare Makybe Diva became a household name by winning the previous trophies three times in a row between 2003 and 2005. She is the most successful horse in the race’s 159-year history, but she also remains the last mare to win the prize.
The males have had it all their own way over the past 15 years, and you might be tempted to draw a line through any mares competing this time around. However, one mare in particular stands out in 2023.
Verry Elleegant produced a superb performance to win the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes over 2000m at the start of October. She finished ahead of Toffee Tongue and Finche in a clean sweep for Waller, and she looks perfectly capable of thriving over a longer distance. She already has five Group 1 victories to her name, including a dominant performance in the Winx Stakes, and she could be the mare to finally break that male dominance.