The spring racing carnival is all about the glitz, the fashion and the alcohol. The horse race is important too, but if we’re being completely honest, most people head to the races to get dressed up and sip – or in some people’s cases indulge – on Champagne and wine.
But it begs the question… when did alcohol become such a vital aspect of spring racing season?
Last year on cup day alone, race-goers consumed a total of 46,570 bottles of Champagne. By time you add the copious amounts of wine and beer that was also consumed to this figure, the amount of alcohol drank on race day is astronomical.
Here, we look at the history of the race that stops the nation, and how it became the biggest week of the year for wine and Champagne sales, eclipsing both New Year’s Eve and Grand Final day.
The first ever Melbourne Cup was held in 1861, with the grand prizes being a gold watch and cash purse. It wasn’t until 1865 that the first official cup was awarded as part of the main prize, which the recipient later sold because they allegedly found it to be unattractive.
Even though the Melbourne Cup is now a permanent event in our social calendars on the first Tuesday in November, the race that stops the nation was held on varying dates throughout spring, until 1875. The cup day trophy has also gone through a number of transformations, with the current design only becoming a permanent fixture in 1919. Before then, the cup took on many appearances, and some years, no cup was awarded at all.
In the early days of the Melbourne Cup, the event’s central focus was the race itself, however, as time has progressed, alcohol and fashion have become the central focus. Today, race day has topped the tables as the biggest sporting event of the year for alcohol consumption, with the AFL’s grand final not even coming close.
To give you an idea of what Cup Day in the 21st century looks like:
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