5 Nov 2019

Melbourne Cup 2019: What you need to know

4:02 pm on 5 November 2019

Join RNZ for live coverage of the 159th running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Raceway.

This year's event, the 159th running of the race, has been overshadowed by an ABC investigation, which found thousands of former racehorses are being destroyed each year.

Before we get to that, here's a run-through of the event.

Basic race info

The Melbourne Cup Group 1 race is held, as it is every year, on the grass track at Flemington Raceway on the first Tuesday of November at 3pm Australia Eastern Daylight Time (5pm NZT).

The 3200m handicapped race is the seventh of the day at Flemington and features 24 horses.

A handicapped race means the jockey, the saddle and gear must all weigh the same for everyone.

To qualify, the horses must be at least three years old, and each year more than 300 horses are nominated for the event.

A ballot is used to draw the field, but the winners of 13 races, including the Caufield Cup and Cox Plate, gain entry automatically.

Total prize money for the race is $AU8 million ($NZ8.6m).

The weather in Melbourne is expected to be fine for the race, reaching a maximum temperature of 19 degrees celsius with light winds from the north west.

The horses competing

1. Cross Counter

Jockey: William Buick

Trainer: Charlie Appleby

2. Mer De Glace

Jockey: Damian Lane

Trainer: Hisashi Shimizu

3. Master of Reality

Jockey: Frankie Detorri

Trainer: Joseph O'Brien

4. Mirage Dancer

Jockey: Ben Melham

Trainer: Trent Busuttin and Natalia Young

5. Southern France

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Trainer: Ciaron Maher and David Eustace

6. Hunting Horn

Jockey: Seamie Heffernan

Trainer: Aidan O'Brien

7. Latrobe

Jockey: James McDonald

Trainer: Joseph O'Brien

8. Mustajeer

Jockey: Damien Oliver

Trainer: Kris Lees

9. Rostropovich

Jockey: Dwayne Dunn

Trainer: David & Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig

10. Twilight Payment

Jockey: Hugh Bowman

Trainer: Joseph O'Brien

11. Finche

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Trainer: Chris Waller

12. Prince of Arran

Jockey: Michael Walker

Trainer: Charlie Fellowes

13. Raymond Tusk

Jockey: Jamie Spencer

Trainer: Richard Hannon

14. Downdraft

Jockey: John Allen

Trainer: Joseph O'Brien

15. Magic Wand

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Trainer: Aidan O'Brien

16. Neufbosc

Jockey: Luke Nolen

Trainer: David & Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig

17. Sound

Jockey: James Winks

Trainer: Michael Moroney

18. Surprise Baby

Jockey: Jordan Childs

Trainer: Paul Preusker

19. Constantinople

Jockey: Joao Moreira

Trainer: David & Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig

20. Il Paradiso

Jockey: Wayne Lordan

Trainer: Aidan O'Brien

21. Steel Prince

Jockey: Brett Prebble

Trainer: Anthony Freedman

22. The Chosen One

Jockey: Tim Clarke

Trainer: Murray Baker

23. Vow And Declare

Jockey: Craig Williams

Trainer: Danny O'Brien

24. Youngstar

Jockey: Tommy Berry

Trainer: Chris Waller

What the TAB is saying

The TAB takes in about $10 million in bets in New Zealand on the Melbourne Cup

TAB spokesperson Mark Stafford told Morning Report New Zealand-trained horse Finche is among its favourites, but Japanese horse Mer de Glace is ahead in punters' betting selections.

Mer de Glace won the Caulfield Cup "really impressively" though it was over a shorter 2400m than today's 3200m race.

"All the talk has been about was about [Mer de Glace] - until the rain came. They're not sure whether it's going to go very well on a soft track.

"Finche could even start favourite if it rains a lot today."

He said two New Zealand jockeys had good place chances - James McDonald on Latrobe and Michael Walker on Prince of Arran. "Of all of the Kiwi connections, possibly Prince of Arran with Michael Walker's the best of them."

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Chris Waller (L) Photo: Chris Waller website

Many more northern hemisphere horses are competing, with only four from Australasia in this year's race.

"Some people in Australia are saying the 'northern raiders' have almost save the race because when it was just New Zealanders but mainly Australians it was all sort of same-same. Now there's a real rivalry, northern hemisphere versus southern hemisphere."

It's the hardest race to pick, he said, but if he had to chose, his top two would be Constantinople and Finche.

"[Finche] is trained by Chris Waller who started his career in Foxton and now he's the best trainer in Australia as well."

The controversy

Some just want the Melbourne Cup stopped, and the revelation that thousands of former racehorses are being destroyed each year has sparked vociferous protests in Australia.

Animal rights activists are asking people who are angry about the treatment of former racehorses to say 'Nup to the Cup'

Kristin Leigh, a spokesperson for the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, said on Cup day, instead of protesting at the front gates, they are holding an alternative 'Fashions on the Field' party nearby.

"We like to show the public that you can have a really good time without supporting animal abuse.

"People get really dressed up and really wild in outrageous outfits - or they can dress up glamorously if they like.

"We have human races... where the participants are actually willing, not forced," she said.

The coalition wants horse racing come to an end, but but in the mean time is in favour of the industry making improvements, rather than its "token efforts" so far.