Australian Adventures: Attending the Race That Stops the Nation

“A combined $44 million is spent on outfits for the Melbourne Cup.”

“Well, I contributed $19 to that.”

***

I had no idea what the Melbourne Cup was before moving to Australia. Obviously, I could have guessed it’s a horse race. But I didn’t know it’s the race that stops the nation.

The Melbourne Cup is a public holiday in Victoria. It’s on the first Tuesday of November and it makes me wonder why we can’t make the Kentucky Derby a public holiday in America. So I decided to go to the races and see what it’s all about. And let’s just say, I don’t want to check my bank account after attending.

Attending the Race That Stops the Nation

100,000 of my closest friends!

It was kind of a process for me and my friend (S/O Emma!) to get to Flemington Racecourse. It’s an hour and a half train ride from where we live so, obviously, we had to do pre-drinks on the train like any normal peasant.

We were about 10 minutes away from the racecourse when the conductor got on the loudspeaker.

“The train is being held due to protestors blocking the railway.”

Another 10 minutes later:

“This train will not be continuing any further.”

Great. I appreciate the protestors and their efforts but come on.

Emma was quick to get an Uber before the mass of people getting off the train thought to have the same idea. So we got to the races and the shit show began.

The Melbourne Cup is an exciting scene. Over 100,000 people are dressed up and looking fly as, and if you’re wearing green you might as well turn around and go home. (I learned that it’s an unlucky color at the races.) I wore black, as always, and looked like I was going to a funeral rather than a horse race. (It was most definitely a funeral for my wallet.)

Australian Adventures: Attending the Race That Stops the Nation

*this pic is from the Peninsula Cup 2 days earlier. It’s a week of races!

The fashion trends for women is mostly colorful jumpsuits, large headdresses and hats and the most fabulously uncomfortable heels I have ever seen. And men dressed in their finest suits. (Although, shoutout to the dudes in the flamingo tux. You guys were the real fashionistas.)

I felt like it was mostly a young crowd at the Melbourne Cup. Possibly because I was in general admission with all the other peasants. I met a group of Kiwis who flew to Melbourne just for the race. And that’s when I realized how big of a deal it actually is. (I mean, I wouldn’t fly all the way to Australia just for a horse race…)

If you ever happen to be on this side of the world during November and just happen to make it to Melbourne Cup, be prepared to shovel out all your money. Between transportation, food, drinks, outfits, betting and a ticket to the event, you’ll want to crawl under a rock and never spend another dime again after looking at your bank account.

Although the expense of the Melbourne Cup was painful for me to come to terms with the next day, you have to remember it’s all part of the experience. I mean, I was happy in the moment as I bought a bottle of champagne to carry around and take swigs from during the races. And if you’re hungry, just eat some fries off the floor. That saved me $12.

The actual race was really close. It literally is the race that stops the nation. The entire crowd gets so into it and I think (I think) a long shot won the race. But I really wasn’t paying too much attention to the odds. All I know is that I spoke to more people who lost money than won. But everyone was still in good spirits! I was going to place a bet and I’m glad I didn’t because the horse that I was eyeing came in last (just my luck).

As we left the race, I noticed that it seemed like a right of passage for an older woman to fall into a bush. Everyone was so drunk and happy and it was such a unique atmosphere to be a part of. But would I go through the effort of doing the Melbourne Cup again? Probably not. I’m glad I experienced it since it’s one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, but I think it’s better as one of those “I did the Melbourne Cup back in 2017 and I don’t need to do it again” kind of things. Ya know?

Bottom line, if you go, take it all in and get dressed up to get messed up. It’s a really fun way to experience true Aussie culture and you’ll be happy that you got to be a part of it.

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