The Melbourne Cup is a public holiday for the city of Melbourne. This is the premier horse race in Australia, much like the Kentucky Derby in the United States. Since the Cup falls on a Tuesday, most Melbournians make it a four-day weekend. Pretty much all of Australia stops to watch the race while it’s going on, even sculpture artists who live in the middle of the Outback. It’s also an excuse to party, as if Australians really need one. Ladies dress up in nice dresses and fancy hats, whether or not they are actually attending the race. People fill pubs and bars or host barbecues as people gather to see if their horse is the winner.
I watched the Melbourne Cup at the home of some new friends, one of them a Brazilian with whom I got to practice my Portuguese. At race time, I randomly picked Brown Panther, who had an auspicious start out in the top three or four, but eventually fell behind and lost to Fiorente, a horse trained by the controversial businesswoman, Gai Waterhouse. She is a bit of a character and some Melbournians I spoke with believe that she cheats. As of this writing, she has been fined for administering antibiotics to Tres Blue, one of her other horses in the race. By race rules, trainers are not allowed to give medication to horses 24 hours before the race.
I concluded the day meeting up with my tour group with G Adventures that I would be with for the next couple weeks through more of Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. We enjoyed a nice dinner at Pop together and discussed our travels thus far.
The Melbourne Cup day was certainly a great send-off to conclude my time in one of the most fabulous cities in the world.