The Melbourne Cup is the most prestigious horse race in Australia and one of the biggest in the world, and the 24 horses which compete in it annually are among the best stayers on the planet. With all the acclaim which surrounds it, the millions of eyes which watch it and the subsequent broadcast and sponsorship revenue which it yields, it’s little surprise that the winners earn a fairly handsome cheque after passing the post. But exactly how much money is up for grabs from The Race That Stops a Nation?
What is the prize money for the Melbourne Cup?
In total, the current prize pool for the Melbourne Cup sits at a whopping $8 million, a number bettered by only four other races in the world. Of course, that doesn’t all go to the winner, and the total is spread among the top 12 horses in the race. The money is shared like this: 6th-12th earn a very tidy $160,000, 5th wins $230,000, 4thsnares $350,000, 3rd gets $550,000, 2nd wins $1.1 million, and the winner takes home an enormous $4.4 million.
But while the Melbourne Cup has for a long time had a significant prize pool, it hasn’t always been as large as it is today. In fact, back in 1861 when it was first run, the winner is believed to have earned £710 for their troubles – clearly that was worth more than it would be today, but it falls a fair way short of the $4.4 million the winner will get in 2021. It was in 1985 that the total prize pool first surpassed the $1 million mark, while just 20 years later it had increased up to $5 million. The $8 million that it sits at today was reached in 2019 – just two years prior to that it had been at $6.2 million, so it’s safe to say the number is rising fairly quickly.
Who actually takes home the winnings?
Of course, while it’s the horse who does all the running, they don’t have much need for $4.4 million, so the winnings are spread among various connections. The jockey earns 5% of the winnings, or around $220,000, and they also get a much smaller but still useful riding fee. The trainer gets double that at 10% of the winnings, which in 2021 will amount to $440,000. That then leaves a huge $3.74 million to be shared among owners and other connections.
How does the Melbourne Cup prize pool compare to other major races?
As mentioned, the total Melbourne Cup prize money is bettered by only a handful of races in the world, and within Australia it is significantly more than many other major Group 1 races. To put it into perspective, the winner of the Melbourne Cup earns more than the total prize pool for both the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Golden Slipper, and only slightly less than the total purse of each of the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup.
With these sums of money being thrown around, it’s easy to see why the Melbourne Cup is able to attract such high-quality stayers from around the world. And while the chance to etch one’s name in history and achieve one of the most significant accomplishments in world racing is a significant reason why the race is such a sought-after prize for trainers, jockeys and owners alike, the $4.4 million which is up for grabs certainly helps to add to the prestige.