The Race that Stops a Nation

29th October 2018

In the thoroughbred racing world the first Tuesday of November is Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, 'the race that stops a nation'.

However, as part of the big race build up the Lexus Melbourne Cup has been on its travels, (its 16th annual tour), since the 10 July to thirty seven destinations and five countries.

You may remember as part of its globetrotting tour the 18-carat gold trophy visited the National Heritage centre on the afternoon of Wednesday 11 July.


With this year’s race only a few days away our latest blog reviews the Lexus Melbourne Cup’s journey to its final destination, Flemington racecourse.

The trip began when the $200,000 trophy, which travelled with its own passport, visited the bustling Covent Garden studio of famed British milliner Stephen Jones OBE.

stephen-jones Stephen Jones OBE and model Lilla holding the Lexus Melbourne Cup Trophy

Jones said “the Melbourne Cup Carnival is one of the most significant events on the calendar for millinery fashion and it is only fitting for London to be the first stop on the tour”

London was the first part of a remarkable maiden journey in the United Kingdom and Ireland before the fabulous trophy jetted back home.

After leaving the capital, the ‘People’s Cup’, as it is known in Australia, moved on to the Home of Racing where it first called in at Melbourne born, Newmarket based trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam’s , Abington Place stables before it headed to Newmarket Academy to meet school students.

nkt-academy Cup Tour Ambassador Jason Richardson with students from the Newmarket Academy

Afterwards the ‘People’s Cup’ moved on to the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art where it caught up with the 2007 Melbourne Cup runner up Purple Moon, who at the time was stabled at Palace House as part of the retraining of races charity.  Victoria Racing Club Chairman Amanda Elliott, Purple Moon’s trainer Luca Cumani and his wife Sarah, Mayor of Newmarket Rachel Hood and National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art Director Chris Garibaldi were all on hand for the special reunion. (See first photo)

mnjp-11-07-18-gp-008-melbourne-cup Sarah and Luca Cumani with Purple Moon

National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art Director Chris Garibaldi said " It was wonderful to be able to host the world -famous Lexus Melbourne Cup this summer.  As a museum professional, I profoundly believe in the importance of objects to convey meaning - and to have a symbolic significance way beyond the simple value of their actual form.  Hosting the Lexus Melbourne Cup was a classic example of this: to hold it was a moment when the hairs on the back of one's neck stood up.  The great racing trophies are the physical embodiment of the sporting glory to which so many people aspire.   The years of hard work and planning that go into achieving any sporting victory are all bound up in these trophies and nowhere is that more true than with the iconic Lexus Melbourne Cup.


Following the reunion the British public had a chance at the Heritage Centre to get up close and personal with the coveted trophy when it went on display for a special public viewing.   Many of them were able to have their photo taken with the Cup and pose for a few seconds as the imaginary winning owner.

Newmarket’s prestigious July Cup meeting was the scene of the Cup’s next stage before a stop off at Andrew Balding’s Kingclere stables ahead of its journey across the Irish Sea.

Reflecting on the Newmarket leg of the tour Joe McGrath, Victoria Racing Club’s Racing Engagements and Cup Tour Manager said "Taking the Cup to Newmarket - where thoroughbred racing began back in the mid-17th Century was one of the key highlights for the 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour. What was really pleasing was the way in which the Cup was received”.

In Ireland the Cup met up with trainer Dermot Weld at his Rosewell House yard where 1993 Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop was trained. Joining Weld was Vintage Crop’s jockey Mick Kinane, a duo who transformed the race’s history when they steered the horse to become the first internationally trained winner of the race.   Twenty five years later the 2 mile handicap is now a major target for worldwide trainers with a first prize this year of over 4 million Australian dollars.


Victoria Racing Club Chairman Amanda Elliott said “it was only fitting for the VRC to take this year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup to the men responsible for changing the history of the race”.

Since 1993 there have been winners from France, Germany, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand but despite some near misses like Purple Moon and Ed Dunlop’s Red Cadeaux the race has eluded the British horses.

The Cup’s Irish venture also included outings to the Irish National Stud, where Vintage Crop lived a long and happy retirement, a trip to the birthplace of 2017 winner Rekindling and a final call at the Curragh for the Irish Oaks weekend.

Next stop on the route was Auckland before returning home to Melbourne on 1 August when it began a three month trek across Australia, apart from a two day break in Seoul, South Korea, its first visit there, in early September.

On home shores the Lexus Melbourne Cup has journeyed to all areas of Australia from the big cities to small towns, the outback and even beaches.  It’s been the centre of attention at hundreds of shopping malls, racecourses and was even hosted in the Australian Parliament.

For instance in Melbourne the People’s Cup celebrated the annual horses’ birthday when it attended a special event at Living Legends in Greenvale.  Guests were treated to a parade of champions of the turf and Melbourne Cup winners Might and Power (1997), Rogan Josh (1999), Brew (2000), Efficient (2007) and Prince of Penzance (2015).  Lexus Ambassador Emma Freedman is pictured below with Rogan Josh and Might and Power.

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On 11 August the Lexus Melbourne Cup went to the races at Louth, the outback New South Wales town and on 13 September it journeyed to Dunk Island on the Great Barrier where it took in the sights of one of Australia’s most picturesque locations

the-lexus-melbourne-cup-at-mission-beach-2 The Lexus Melbourne Cup at Mission Beach

Since its inaugural year in 2003, the Tour has travelled more than half a million kilometres and visited more than 400 regional, rural and metropolitan destinations, providing communities with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the magic of the Lexus Melbourne Cup.

By the end of October the Lexus Melbourne Cup will be have returned to Melbourne before its final destination, Flemington racecourse, for the race that stops a nation.

Who will win this year’s prize?  Could one of the British raiders grab the glory for the first time and bring the Lexus Melbourne Cup back to the UK.

Whatever happens, the People’s Cup will be on tour again in 2019.

Blog by Stephen Wallis, Visitor Services

We would like to thank Lotti Dyer and Joe McGrath from the Victoria Racing Club for their help in preparing this blog

Photos at The National Heritage Centre are courtesy of the The Newmarket Journal.