Melbourne Cup Facts And Trivia From Phar Lap To Michelle Payne

Melbourne Cup Facts And Trivia From Phar Lap To Michelle Payne
Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Nov 04, 2023

Want to impress your friends with Melbourne Cup facts and trivia? 

Former amateur jockey, hobby trainer and bookie Paddy O’Reilly has collated all the colourful history of the race that stops the nation in one easy to read book, Facts, Stats & Trivia of the Melbourne Cup.

All the winners’ amazing stories and records are there over the 150 years of sporting history in this exciting and revealing book.

Just make sure you recall a fact or two from these extracts below and everyone will think you’re an expert.

Phar Lap

Phar Lap's win in the Melbourne Cup

Entire books have been written about Phar Lap, ‘The Red Terror’, and his win in the 1930 Melbourne Cup, so what can be added in one or two paragraphs that could possibly shed any new light on the champion? The stats are impressive. Phar Lap won 37 of his 51 starts, including 14 straight races in his four-year-old season, and amassed a record 66,738 pounds in prize money. Phar Lap won the Cox Plate-Melbourne Stakes double carrying 9st 12lb (62.5kg) to an effortless 3 length win over Second Wind and Shadow King in the 1930 Melbourne Cup. In doing so, the chestnut gelding started the shortest priced favourite in Cup history, and landed some huge bets for those canny punters who coupled Phar Lap with Amounis in the Caulfield Cup. Trainer Harry Telford backed the horse up on the Thursday and Saturday of Cup week to win four races in eight days.

In many instances, there was no betting on the race because Phar Lap was deemed unbeatable at WFA. The handicapper finally beat him, however, allotting him a record 10st 10lb (68kg) in the 1931 Melbourne Cup. Starting a 3/1 favourite, Phar Lap raced like a tired horse and finished unplaced behind White Nose and the unlucky Shadow King.

With nowhere else to turn, Phar Lap’s American owner Dave Davies sent the champion to America to race, where he won the Agua Caliente before succumbing to travel sickness in April 1932. Some said Phar Lap was poisoned, others said he was just worn out … a dream destroyed.

Makybe Diva

Makybe Diva won three cups on the trot

The biggest Melbourne Cup crowd recorded at Flemington – 122,736 people – saw mare Makybe Diva win the first of her record three Melbourne Cup victories in 2003. Bred in England by her millionaire owner Tony Santic, Makybe Diva (named after five women who worked in Santic’s South Australian tuna fishery – Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane and Vanesa) failed to sell as a yearling and was brought to Australia to race as a late three-year-old.

Trained by David Hall, Makybe Diva (Desert King-Tugela) ran fourth in a Benalla maiden before winning six races in succession in the Spring of 2002. The mare’s wins in the Werribee Cup and Queen Elizabeth Stakes earmarked her as a future Cups hope by her connections. Her form leading up to the 2003 Melbourne Cup was solid enough – a series of four consecutive fourths in the Rundle Welter (2400m) – for her to start 8/1 second favourite in the Cup with just 51 kg on her back. Glen Boss rode Makybe Diva to a one and a half length win over the roughie She’s Archie with Jardine’s Lookout in third place. But the best was yet to come.

In 2005, Makybe Diva set several records in winning her third successive Melbourne Cup. The first top weight to win the Cup since Rising Fast in 1954, The Diva also set a weight carrying record for a mare with 58kg, or 0.5kg over weight for age, breaking her own weight carrying record from the previous year (55.5kg).

Prince of Penzance

Michelle Payne made Melbourne Cup history last year

Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win the Cup when Prince of Penzance won at 100/1 in 2015. Payne rode a masterful race and timed her run to perfection in surging the six-year-old Entire gelding to the front at the 100m mark. Prince of Penzance defeated Max Dynamite (Frankie Dettori) and the AJC Derby winner Criterion (Michael Walker), with most observers believing Payne outrode both international jockeys.

Prince of Penzance was trained by Darren Weir for a large syndicate of owners. Michael Payne is the youngest daughter of the well-known horse racing Payne family, with younger brother Stevie drawing the number 1 barrier at the official barrier draw. Prince of Penzance won the Mooney Valley Cup in 2014, and backed up a year later to run a good second to The United States in its final lead up race for the Cup. Payne, who some of the owners wanted to replace in the Cup, repaid the faith shown in her by trainer Weir and gave a royal ‘get stuffed’ to those who doubted the ability of female jockeys ton win major races.

Tragically, three-time runner-up Red Cadeaux did not finish the race in its fifth Cup start after suffering a fetlock injury for which the nine-year-old gelding was later euthanised.

Facts and trivia from the Melbourne Cup

  • Facts, Stats & Trivia of the Melbourne Cup, by Paddy O’Reilly, RRP $14.99 (New Holland).

– Additional reporting by Georgia Bastian


By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites, and She is the only person to edit and publish Australia's three biggest flagship magazines - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea. Robyn was Group Publisher of Bauer Media's most successful and prestigious magazines including Woman's Day, Good Health, Grazia and ran Hearst in Australia including Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan and madison. Voted one of B&T's 30 Most Powerful Women In Media at the Women in Media Awards Robyn was a keynote speaker at Pause 2021, Cebit & J&J Women In Leadership. Robyn was also the winner of the prestigious Magazine Publisher Association’s Editor of the Year award.



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