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As a youngster Sideline Sid couldn't wait for Christmas, sending his parents crazy in the buildup to the big day.

Today, it is the first Tuesday in November that grabs this grey headed punters attention, weeks in advance of the big race.

Seventeen horses contested the first Melbourne Cup run on November 7, 1861, for a relatively modest prize of 710 gold sovereigns and a gold watch.

It wasn’t until 1865, that the connections of the winner were presented with a cup for winning what has been dubbed “The Race That Stops Two Nations".

The Melbourne Cup is held over a distance of 3200 metres, the traditional two-mile cup distance, for horses three years and older and is the richest and most prestigious ‘two-mile’ handicap in the world.

Myths abound about events hidden in the mists of time with Archer, who the first Melbourne Cup, reputed to have been walked some 500 miles from the trainers base in New South Wales.

The reality was that the horse had travelled to Sydney and was winched aboard the steamer "The City of Melbourne" and travelled in relative comfort to Melbourne.

In recent years, the race has turned full circle.

In the early days the source of Australian thoroughbred racing stock was Great Britain, with the winners tracing back to the great English sires and brood mares.

The twentieth century saw the emergence of the New Zealand bred as the dominant force in the Melbourne Cup. No horse grabbed the attention of the Australian public than the might Phar Lap, who was bred in the shaky isles.

Phar Lap was secreted away before the big race after a attempt was made to shoot him, and became the shortest priced favourite in the 159 year history of the race winning at 11/8 odds on.

Forty-three New Zealand horse have won the Melbourne Cup since inception, with the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's provided a torrent of winners, many which were owned and trained in New Zealand and ridden by kiwi jockeys.

Who could forget Kiwi, who triumphed in 1983. Trained by Snow Lupton on his farm just outside Waverley, Kiwi stormed down the outside to win going away from the field.

The 2019 field is dominated by Northern Hemisphere bred and trained horses.

The arrival of the twenty-first century brought a change, where the raiders from the north and northern hemisphere stayers in training were purchased by Australian owners and trainers, in the quest to lift the Melbourne Cup aloft in triumph on the first Tuesday in November.

The change from winners from the southern antipodes to the northern hemisphere recent domination, has been brought about by one thing - MONEY.

Sideline Sid's 1967 Melbourne Cup racebook graphically illustrates what happens when you throw bucketfuls of dollars at a race. The 1967 stake was $60,000, which equates to around half a million dollars in today's money.

In 1985, the Melbourne Cup became the first race in Australia to offer a One Million Dollar prize pool. The 24 starters in the 2019 Melbourne Cup will be racing for eight million dollars with winning owners taking home a massive $4.4 million.

When Sideline Sid's wakes up on Wednesday after the great race, wiser and usually with empty pockets, the good news is that it is only 364 days to the 2020 Melbourne Cup

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz