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Aussies divided over Melbourne Cup: What you need to know

The Melbourne Cup once brought Aussies together, but now the event has become synonymous with protest.

Aussies once used to party hard on Melbourne Cup Day, but now thousands are either simply not interested or boycotting it because of concerns about horse welfare. Despite this, Flemington is set to reach capacity and one racing advocate told Yahoo News the carnival is “getting its mojo back”!

  • With fewer international runners taking part in the Melbourne Cup in recent years, and the introduction of advanced veterinary protocols, deaths during the race are on the decline. But fatalities during other events are still common — 168 horses have succumbed to racing-related injuries in Australia over the past racing year.

  • A poll by Essential of over 1,000 people in 2023 found only 11 per cent have a "high interest", and 24 per cent have a "moderate interest" in the Cup.

  • While singer Taylor Swift pulled out of her scheduled appearance at the luxury Birdcage in 2019, some celebrities appear to be returning to the event. Hollywood A-lister Matt Damon and footballer Lance Franklin were both photographed attending Saturday’s Derby Day.

  • Although it hasn’t taken a political stance on the Melbourne Cup, this year major sponsor Myer severed its 40-year partnership with the Victorian Racing Club’s Fashions on the Field. But many major brands remain committed to the event, including Lexus, Penfolds, TAB, GH Mumm and Schweppes.

Read more: The good, the bad and the ugly of the race that stops the nation

🗣️ What they said

Kristin Leigh, Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses “Businesses and celebrities are steering away from the Melbourne Cup. It's not good for their brand, and it's not good for their image.”

Vicky Leonard, Managing Director of racing industry public relations firm Kick Collective “This year it’s gone mental. We’ve counted far less negativity… it feels like the Cup’s really getting its mojo back.”

Many Aussies are no longer interested in partying on Melbourne Cup day due to concerns about horse welfare. Source: AAP/Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses
Many Aussies are no longer interested in partying on Melbourne Cup day due to concerns about horse welfare. Source: AAP/Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

🗓️ What happens next?

This year’s Melbourne Cup is at 3pm if you’re in the eastern states, 12pm in Perth, 1.30pm in Darwin, 2pm in Brisbane and 2.30pm in Adelaide.

At 73,000 people, Derby Day attendance was significantly lower than in 2003 when 122,000 flocked to watch the race. But crowds are expected to be much larger at Flemington on Tuesday, and there is an expectation the venue will reach capacity.

When it comes to television viewers, numbers have been down. An estimated 3 million people regularly watched the Melbourne Cup before 2015, but only around 1.35 million tuned in last year.

While Taylor Swift is busy continuing her Eras Tour in South America, several high-profile Aussie musicians are set to perform at Flemington including Delta Goodrem, Natalie Imbruglia and Jon Stevens.

There are several anti-Cup events around the country, including a Nup to the Cup fundraiser that’s sold out. It’s also expected there will be protests outside race courses in Australia and New Zealand.

💬 Conversation starter

Media analysis company Meltwater has tracked 82,000 mentions of the Melbourne Cup this week across broadcast, blogs and social media and found the majority have been overwhelmingly neutral or positive.

Looking just at social media, they found 3089 posts about fashion, 11,800 general Melbourne Cup mentions and just 3,580 related to animal cruelty.

Unsurprisingly, most mentions about the Melbourne Cup were in Australia at 59,100, followed by the United States at 3,230 and the United Kingdom at 1,760. Looking at the states, it was NSW that was talking about the race the most with 22,000 mentions, followed by Victoria at 10,600, Queensland at 3,170 and Western Australia at 2,110.

Read more: Melbourne Cup rocked by late scratching as fans call for change to 'ludicrous' farce

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