What Is Bigger, The Grand National Or The Melbourne Cup?

There is nothing like a bit pontificating about whether something Aussie or something Pommy is the biggest or the best. And Team GB’s recent successes at the Olympics has done nothing to quell the rivalry. So as we turn to horse racing for the Melbourne Spring Carnival let’s do some navel gazing and tub thumping about which Horse race is the biggest and the best.

The Grand National (‘The National’) and the Melbourne Cup (‘The Cup’) are both the premier horse racing events of their respective country. The Grand National runs each year at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool in the United Kingdom. It’s a steeple chase run over a distance of 4 and a bit miles, and the horses (and hopefully the riders too) have to jump 30 fences over 2 circuits of the course.

There is no question that it entertaining and punters all over the world line up to place their bets. Highlights from its beginnings in 1829 (or lowlights depending on your perspective) include having only 1 horse finishing in 1928. In 1956 the Queen’s Mum had a horse that leading with 40 metres left to run suddenly jumped and flopped belly first to the ground, a memorable event on any horse racing fans highlight real. Grand stand finishes for a three time winner in Red Rum in 1977, a cancelled race in 1993, bomb threats in 97.

Ok so maybe the Grand National wins on drama? But hey they are jumping fences and probably on poshness as well.

So what of the Melbourne Cup? The race that stops a nation on the first Tuesday in November, that gets nearly every Australian on the back of a horse with bets and office sweeps. The race is part of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and it is held at Flemington Race Course. It is the richest prize money horse race over 2 miles (3200 metres) anywhere in the world. Prize money currently tops 6 million dollars. At the track over 100,000 horse racing fans pile into the racecourse to cheer the horse they have bets riding on down the final straight.

It’s not just at the track that the Melbourne Cup takes hold. Across Victoria it's a public holiday, and in other states of Australia a Melbourne Cup day is not one where you can expect speedy service any time after lunch.

And it’s here that the Melbourne Cup can make a claim on being the biggest of the two races. The running of the Melbourne Cup captivates the whole country at just about race track, office, pubs, club and home around the country people have spent the morning checking the odds, they have got their bets on, had a nice lunch with perhaps a glass or two of champers, and are gathered around a TV to watch the big race. The whole nation literally stops. The Melbourne Cup is a true ‘peoples’ event.