Melbourne Cup Carnival marks the states reopening

6 November 2021 Written by VRC

Paramount+ Stakes Day concludes a spectacular week of racing at Flemington

The 2021 Melbourne Cup Carnival has played a key role in the reopening of Victoria, with spectators welcomed back on track to enjoy world-class racing, dining, fashion and entertainment as Flemington Racecourse threw open its doors for the biggest week on the Australian racing calendar.

For the first time since July, spectators were able to attend the races at Headquarters, with over 30,000 spectators making the most of the opportunity to be trackside under COVID-safe protocols.

Australia’s greatest race, the Group 1 Lexus Melbourne Cup, saw Verry Elleegant cement her status as a champion as she notched up her tenth Group 1 win in the $8 million feature of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. It was a first victory in the race for champion trainer Chris Waller and jockey James McDonald in what was considered one of the highest-rated Cups on record.

Bendigo and Fosterville in regional Victoria had another reason to smile when the champion mare passed the post first, winning $50,000 in the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour National Sweep, which will be put towards local charity Sunshine Bendigo which helps support children in difficult times.

Damien Oliver became the most successful rider in Melbourne Cup Carnival history, taking his record to 26 Group 1 wins during Cup Week after he took out the Kennedy Cantala on Superstorm, the TAB Empire Rose Stakes aboard Colette and the Kennedy Oaks with Willowy.

His win on Willowy was his seventh victory – and his third in a row – in the Kennedy Oaks, equalling the record of Bobbie Lewis, while it was also his 126th Group 1 win, sharing the mantle as Australia’s most successful elite-level rider with the late George Moore.

While the 49-year-old Oliver may have broken records this Melbourne Cup Carnival, riding honours went to 29-year-old James McDonald.

McDonald, who won the Ron Hutchinson Award for excellence in the saddle during this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, set a new benchmark for individual winners during Cup Week with 10 victories over the four days of racing this week. They included Home Affairs’ success in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes, Verry Elleegant’s Lexus Melbourne Cup win for the ages, Nature Strip’s seventh top-flight success in the Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic and a host of impressive stakes victories, including a pair of three-year-old fillies – Fangirl and Espiona – who look to have the world at their feet.

The JB Cummings Excellence Award for trainers has gone to Chris Waller, who saddled up seven winners during Cup Week.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival came to a close with today’s Paramount+ Stakes Day, featuring two of Australia’s feature act thoroughbreds in Zaaki and Nature Strip.

Boom horse Zaaki added a third Australian Group 1 by taking out the day’s feature, the $2 million Group 1 Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), for fledgling trainer Annabel Neasham and an ownership group that includes Victoria Racing Club (VRC) Chairman Neil Wilson.

Nature Strip, a winner of the 2019 Group 1 Darley Sprint Classic (1200m) among six prior victories at the highest level, reclaimed his crown with an emphatic success in the $2 million feature.

For the first time ever, two previous Australian Champion Racehorses of the Year stepped out at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup Carnival with both Nature Strip (2019-20) and Verry Elleegant (2020-21) demonstrating their champion qualities with breathtaking wins for Waller and McDonald.

Throughout the Carnival, 460 horses competed in 37 races, representing an average field size of 12.4 runners. The four race cards, offering more than $27 million in prize money, saw 22 individual trainers and 16 jockeys enjoy victory.

VRC Chief Executive Officer Steve Rosich said it had been a stellar week at Flemington, both on and off the track.

“It was one of the most exciting Melbourne Cup Carnivals, headlined by the victory of a champion, Verry Elleegant, in the Lexus Melbourne Cup and the record-setting feats of two of the best to have ever graced the saddle in Damien Oliver and James McDonald,” Mr Rosich said.

“The Melbourne Cup Carnival is where history and tradition sits side by side with innovation and evolution. The Victoria Racing Club is proud to have welcomed racegoers to Flemington for Cup Week to showcase Melbourne, just as we have done for more than 160 years, and we are delighted that it had all the hallmarks of a traditional Melbourne Cup Carnival even with restricted capacity.

“It was also great that those watching on Network 10 had a front row seat for all the action and could participate from home through innovations like Myer Fashions on your Front Lawn.”

As part of an approved COVID safe event plan, racegoers were separated into three zones, each offering a different and unique experience for long-time members and first-time visitors alike. The Purple Zone included the Club Stand and the Grandstand for members and owners, the Green Zone included the Hill Stand and Lawn Stand as well as the front lawn opposite the winning post, while the Pink Zone contained parade lawn pods and private marquees.

“We are grateful to the Victorian Government for their work with us in determining a COVID-safe event plan that allowed us to host 5,500 on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day and 10,000 each on Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, Kennedy Oaks Day and Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes Day,” Mr Rosich said.

“It may not have been a familiar Melbourne Cup Carnival experience but under the current circumstances, it was fantastic to be able to welcome racegoers back as the first step towards Victoria and Australia opening up to the world once more and the feedback we have received from on-course patrons has been very positive.

“We look forward to welcoming more racegoers to Flemington in 2022 for a renewed Melbourne Cup Carnival experience.”

More than 1.9 million Australians watched the Lexus Melbourne Cup across Network 10’s platforms, whilst audiences across, Sky and TAB platforms pushed the total audience beyond 2.5 million people for the race that stops the nation.

Furthermore, the Lexus Melbourne Cup had the biggest live streaming audience for an annual Australia sporting event in history across multiple streaming platforms with 652,000 unique users.

For the first time the Lexus Melbourne Cup was also broadcast into the Metaverse through ZED RUN, which broke new ground in presenting major events and has set an exciting platform to build on for the future.

Off the track, it was a hotly contested final in the Myer Fashions on your Front Lawn National Competition, with state and territory finalists joined by wildcard entrants picked by style spotters from racegoers on Penfolds Victoria Derby Day and Lexus Melbourne Cup Day.

Ultimately it was New South Wales who reigned supreme, taking out both the women’s and men’s national final. Viera Macikova’s red-and-white look proved a winner, with her pleated silk Rodarte midi dress exuding a timeless race wear look. Kalombo Ntumba took out the men’s national competition wearing a tailored double breasted blazer splashed in a standout shade of turquoise that caught the judges’ attention.

Viera Macikova

Viera Macikova

Kalombo Ntumba

Kalombo Ntumba

To round out the iconic competition, three Just For Fun categories - Family Ties, Cup Week Costumes and Cup Week Casual – allowed everyone to revel in the joyful spirit of the Melbourne Cup Carnival from all across Australia. A panel of judges including NOVA radio host Joel Creasey and Studio 10’s Sarah Harris cast their votes today from a strong calibre of stylish and highly creative entries.

The McClone Family from Stirling in the ACT took out the Family Ties category and Carle Rutledge from Essendon, won the Cup Week Casual category with her son and pets. The Cup Week Costumes category which celebrates the life and colour of the Melbourne Cup Carnival was won by Eloise Coleman.

Family Ties winner

Cup Week Casuals

Cup Week Casuals

Cup Week Costumes

Cup Week Costumes

The 2021 Myer Fashions on your Front Lawn® competition offered one of Australia’s richest prize pools, with a combined prize pool of over $300,000 shared across all categories. Today’s Just for Fun winners share in TCL entertainment packages and Myer gift vouchers worth over $20,000.

Some of the biggest names in Australian entertainment also returned to the stage for the first time in more than two years when they performed at Flemington over Cup Week.

Headlined by ARIA award winning singer/songwriter Delta Goodrem, who performed a spectacular anthemic medley before the Lexus Melbourne Cup which started at Twin Hills Stud in NSW and concluded on The Garden Stage in Wildflower, some of the biggest names in entertainment returned to the stage for the first time in two years.

Joining Goodrem to perform live at Flemington included ARIA award winning chart-toppers The Living End, the cast of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, singing sensation Kate Ceberano and Australian indie pop duo Client Liaison.

The VRC’s stable of ambassadors enjoyed all the action trackside across the four days of Cup Week, including Melbourne Cup Carnival Ambassadors Christian Petracca, Michelle Payne, Diana Chan, Emma and Tom Hawkins and VRC Ambassadors Crystal Kimber, Emma Booth and Amanda Ross.

Interstate travel restrictions didn’t stop Lexus Melbourne Cup Day Ambassador and Olympian Ariarne Titmus and Melbourne Cup Carnival Ambassador and Brownlow Medallist Ollie Wines from revelling in the spirit of Cup Week from their respective home towns in Brisbane and Adelaide.

Pin & Win – in support of children’s charity Very Special Kids – offered more than $130,000 in prizes, including a 2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD F Sport. All proceeds from the annual Pin & Win have gone towards an upgrade of Very Special Kids’ children’s hospice at Malvern where it cares for children with life-threatening conditions and provides much-needed family support services. It is due to be completed in 2023.

To mark the end of Cup Week and as a special thank you to frontline workers, bouquets made up from Flemington Racecourse’s world-famous rose bushes were delivered to the Royal Melbourne Hospital yesterday.

The VRC’s team of gardeners cut the blooms from a number of rose bushes that make Flemington the Southern Hemisphere’s largest and most beautiful rose garden.

2021 Melbourne Cup Carnival Group 1 winners

Race Prize Money Winner Trainer Jockey
TAB Empire Rose Stakes $1,000,000 Colette James Cummings Damien Oliver
Coolmore Stud Stakes $1,500,000 Home Affairs Chris Waller James McDonald
PenfoldsVictoria Derby $2,010,000 Hitotsu Ciaron Maher & David Eustace John Allen
Kennedy Cantala $2,002,500 Superstorm Danny O’Brien Damien Oliver
Lexus Melbourne Cup $8,000,000 Verry Elleegant Chris Waller James McDonald
Kennedy Oaks $1,005,000 Willowy James Cummings Damien Oliver
Darley Sprint Classic $2,002,500 Nature Strip Chris Waller James McDonald
Paramount+ Mackinnon Stakes $2,005,000 Zaaki Annabel Neasham James McDonald