Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Energy Efficient

Do We Love A Melbourne Cup Wager? You Bet

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

We call the Melbourne Cup the race that stop a nation - and it is a perfectly accurate description. The first Tuesday in November is also the day when everyone puts a bet on the Cup. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Overnight, just about every man and his dog becomes an expert. Everyone's got a hot tip for the Cup.

I ain't kidding about the betting. Just have a look at this photograph, taken at lunchtime today in perfect weather, a sunny 21 Celsius or about 70 Fahrenheit. The massive white TAB tent is only a temporary structure, specially constructed at Federation Square in the shade of the spires of St Paul's Cathedral. Just goes to prove that the Cup - and the Spring Racing Carnival as a whole - is almost a religion in sports-mad Melbourne.

These flags, proclaiming the importance of the Cup, were fluttering proudly as Michael Rodd rode Efficient to a dramatic victory, coming through the outside on the home straight to overhaul 2002-winning jockey Damien Oliver aboard Purple Moon.

Today is traditionally the busiest day of the year for the TAB betting agency, hence the temporary tent in the first picture. Last year, $52.9 million was bet with the New South Wales TAB just on the Melbourne Cup, with $36.5 million wagered in Victoria on the race. My US readers might not reckon those are high figures, but you have to take into account that we only have a national population of onl 20 million.

Last year, more than 29 million individual transactions (bets sold and paid, account balance requests) were processed by Tabcorp's wagering system on Melbourne Cup Day. No surprise, then, that the TAB at Fed Square did a roaring trade. I was going to say we're a resourceful national, but maybe I should say instead that we are a resourceful, er, race!

If you want to see what the $80,000 three-handled gold chalice-style Melbourne Cup itself looks like, this shot (below) will give you an idea. I was lucky enough to spot this bloke with a miniature Cup-style pin in the lapel of his jacket and he was quite happy for me to photograph it. You might also be interested to know that Flemington Racecourse, home of the $5 million Cup, is on our National Heritage List, alongside the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park.


Melissa said...

I don't know much about the race, but St. Paul's Cathedral is gorgeous!! I love the spires on the building, beautiful! So, did you bet as well?

WalksFarWoman said...

Yipee! The postman's just been, I ripped my parcel apart and finally read the much anticipated opening line..."5 p.m., MELBOURNE, GRAND FINAL DAY"

I intend to prepare a curry for tea in celebration then lock myself away in indulgent mode. :)

Love your November sunshine David, hope your horse romps home.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Melissa,

The Cathedral is an absolutely beautiful building inside and out. Your Dad would be transfixed with his camera ....

Yes, I had a bet - as did every other Aussie. But my horse is still running I think!

Keep smiling


david mcmahon said...


That's so wonderful to hear. Thank you so very humbly for taking the trouble to order the novel and I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And I hope the curry was the perfect accompaniment.

My horse, alas, would have fared better if I carried it on my own shoulders!

Keep smiling


i beati said...

classy pin, sad about the young journalist

Kimberly said...

Fascinating post, but the first photo has my attention thoroughly captivated. The juxtaposition of the modern building in the foreground with the cathedral in the background? Fabulous.

whodatdare said...

Thanks so much for the info on the Melbourne Cup, as I've heard about it from an Aussie from the Northern Territory who would get all excited about this race. It's a lot longer race (roughly 2 miles) than our Belmont (1-1/2 miles) one of the Triple Crown races. Didn't know Flemington was a landmark either, but glad to hear it's as cherished as the Great Barrier Reef.

Speaking of the Reef, my mother is down under for the next 2 weeks (in Sydney visiting her sister) and just got back from viewing the Reef in a glass bottom boat and said how incredible it is.....

Luke said...


Did you take part in "the action" yourself? How did your expertise play out?

OhCaptain said...

OK...my tastes are bit different in photography, but I gotta tell you, I really like this one (the one of the suit and pin).

I like the lines and the contrast of the suit. It's almost architectural in how it flows.

This one actually inspired me! Thanks for the pepshot!