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The Melbourne Cup is often called “the race that stops a nation”, due to the massive public interest in this prestigious 3,200 metre thoroughbred race. This event always manages to attract a solid field of elite horses, who battle it out for over $6 million in prize money. The Melbourne Cup is the richest two mile horse race in the entire world, and one of the richest turf events on the planet. Before making the Melbourne Cup field, each horse has to make it through the extensive balloting conditions.

Around 300 to 400 horses nominate for the Melbourne Cup each year, with that number reduced to a final field of only 24 horses. However, while 24 is the official limit due to safety reasons, there have been more competitors than this in the Melbourne Cup during some seasons. The record for the most horses was set in 1890, when the final field was made up of an amazing 39 runners.

Balloting conditions for the Melbourne Cup are set by race directors, who have the absolute discretion to exclude any horse from the race based on a range of stipulations. There are a number of factors analysed by race directors to help make their final decision, including prize money amounts, allocated handicaps, and results in specific elite races around the country and world. Specifically, the most important factors include all prize money earned in the last two years, wins or placings in specific lead up races, and the allocated handicap weight.

The winning horses from a range of events are exempt from the Melbourne Cup ballot, including a number of high profile Australian races.

Australian races

Lexus Stakes
The Andrew Ramsden
Cox Plate
Caulfield Cup
The Bart Cummings

International races

– Doncaster Cup (UK)
– Irish St Leger (IRE)
– Tenno Sho (Spring) (JPN)
– Sankei Sho All Comers (JPN)
– Arlington Million (USA)
– San Juan Capistrano Handicap (USA)

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