As the sun sets on yet another Melbourne Cup Day, I have had pause to reflect on yet another losing day on the punt and consider what makes this day of racing so special. For me it has nothing to do with the racing and frankly, unless you are going to Flemington on the day it not all that special at all rather it is just an excuse for low productivity and skiving off work (unless you are in Victoria and get the public holiday). What makes “Cup Day” special for me is seeing the race live.
If you have not experienced a Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington you simply must: whether you are a sporting fan or not. There are few events in my lifetime of attending events both sporting and cultural that match it. Right from the time you get in public transport to the track to the time you leave, no matter whether you are in a tent or standing with the masses, the day is just shear bedlam as 110,000 people from all walks of life cram themselves into the race track. It would be fair to say that Melbourne Cup day at Flemington is a microsm of life in Australia with just about every socio-economic and ethnic group represented from those in the most glamorous of marquees through to the staff behind the bar.
That fact, of itself, makes is day a special one and stands it apart from most other events, in my opinion, in this country. Simply: anyone can buy a ticket and attend. If that was all that makes is event one for the bucket list then I am sure people attending would be happy to tick said list. All of this though forgets the actual race.
I have never heard a crowd hush, as I did the day I attended the Cup, before the start of an event. 110,000 people all of a sudden quietened and listened to the final instructions of the starter to the jockeys before he released them. And then the roar started and did not end until, in my case, Americian hit the finishing line. It was nothing short of breathtaking and, frankly, Channel 7’s coverage does not do it justice. I can only remember one other experience like it in a sports ground, the hush and then the roar, and that was at the Gabba before and after the infamous “Harmison ball”.
If you are a fan of sport, indeed if you are Australian, then attending the Melbourne Cup at Flemington is a must for your bucket list. It is right up there with attending a World Cup final, an Ashes test and a Grand Final of a winter code.
A word of warning to finish with: if you think the day at the races that is Melbourne Cup Day is as Channel 7 portrays then you are going to be left disappointed. No one looks as good as they did when they walked into the course at the end of the day, not all of us can afford to be in the Birdcage and there are actually horses that loose. All of that said: this is a day worth taking a chance on … You will regret it if you do not.
PostScript: My thoughts go out to all of the connections of Verema which was euthanised on the course after suffering an injury in the Cup.