Friday, November 6, 2009

Melbourne Cup 2009

Melbourne Cup Day is Australia's most famous Tuesday. At 3.00 pm AEST, on the first Tuesday in November, Australians everywhere stop for one of the world's most famous horse races - the Melbourne Cup. It's a day when the nation stops whatever it's doing to listen to the race call, or watch the race on TV. Even those who don't usually bet, try their luck with a small wager or entry into a 'sweep' - a lottery in which each ticket-holder is matched with a randomly drawn horse. Since 1877, Cup Day has been a public holiday for Melbourne, and crowds have flocked to the track. By 11.00 am on the first holiday, the Flemington grandstand was packed to its 7,000 capacity, and by 3.00 pm, 150,000 people were estimated to have gathered - thronging the hill beyond. The party atmosphere often means that champagne and canapés, huge hats and racetrack fashions overshadow the business of horse racing.
American writer Mark Twain said of a visit to the Melbourne Cup in 1895:
Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.

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