A crowd of 80,000 expected as gates open for the 163rd running of the Melbourne Cup

A crowd of 80,000 is expected at Flemington Racecourse to watch the race that stops the nation.

A crowd of 80,000 is expected at Flemington Racecourse to watch the race that stops the nation. Photo: AAP

Tens of thousands of racegoers have already made their way to Flemington Racecourse as they prepare to settle in for a big day of racing, fashion and fast horses for the running of the 163rd Melbourne Cup.

Dubbed the race that stops the nation, 24 hopefuls will line up from 3pm on Tuesday for a chance to claim cup glory.

An $8.4 million prize and a $600,000, 18-carat gold Melbourne Cup trophy is up for grabs.

Last year, the crowd was the lowest since 1980, with 73,000 racegoers spending the day at the racetrack.

With temperatures forecast for a high 30 degrees (before late afternoon showers and a possible thunderstorm), a crowd in excess of 80,000 is expected, filling the public space known as The Park, as well as throughout the VCR and the famous Birdcage enclosure.

VRC Ambassadors, the late Princess Diana’s nieces Lady Amelia and Lady Eliza Spencer are the VRC ambassadors this year – and will make their way into the Birdcage at 10.45am.

They will also be tasked with judging this year’s Fashions on the Field.

This year marks three decades of international participation, with Irish raider Vintage Crop’s 1993 success a watershed moment that opened the contest – and the country – to the world.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins saddles up TAB favourite Vauban and Ebor Handicap hero Absurde, while two-time Lexus Melbourne Cup winner Joseph O’Brien – who was only five months old when Vintage Crop triumphed – sends out Okita Soushi.

The Japanese, who have proven so dominant worldwide throughout 2023, return to Flemington for the first time in four years with Breakup their sole representative.

A strong local presence stands in their way, led by defending champion Gold Trip, Caulfield Cup winner Without A Fight and the remarkable Vow And Declare who lines up in his fourth attempt at the major prize.

Racing for the best seats in the house!. Photo: Getty

Spectators will be treated to an all-star entertainment line up including Delta Goodrem, former INXS lead singer Jon Stevens.

‘Torn’ singer Natalie Imbruglia will perform the national anthem ahead of the richest two mile horse race in the world.

The Park Live Stage will host one of Ireland’s most popular bands of all time, The Corrs at the conclusion of racing.

Tuesday’s public holiday also coincides with Victoria decriminalising public drunkenness.

Victoria Police will still be highly visible but will encourage drunk people to seek support or refer cases to outreach teams instead of arrests.

“If a drunk person commits a criminal offence, they will be dealt with swiftly by police,” a police spokeswoman said.

Outreach teams will help drunk people reconnect with friends or family, provide public transport options and even offer to charge their phone if it runs out of battery.

Assistant trainer Kosuke Hamana rides Japanese horse Breakup (R) past race favourite Vauban after early morning track work. Photo: Getty

Speaking to Melbourne’s Today Show on Tuesday, champion jockey Frankie Dettori has tipped the heavily backed Absurde to upset long-time Melbourne Cup favourite and stablemate Vauban in the race that stops a nation.

Dettori’s selection comes with his old friend and rival jockey Damien Oliver poised to take his final Cup ride after his mount Alenquer passed a precautionary veterinary examination.

Mike Moroney-trained Alenquer had shown signs of soreness in the near fore hoof after track work on Sunday and will be inspected again on course at Flemington.

Dettori’s winning ride on Absurde in August’s Ebor Handicap booked the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old’s spot in the Cup field.

Australian jockey Zac Purton has instead been booked to ride Absurde, who will jump from barrier eight.

Punters appear to agree.

Absurde has been sensationally backed, firming from $21 after Saturday’s barrier draw to around $9 on Monday, while Vauban eased slightly to around $4.60.

“The distance and ground is ideal for him … and the bridge is not too far,” Dettori said.

“The thing is, the Melbourne Cup is a handicap and one’s got 55kg, the other has 53kg. Two kilos is a big difference.

Jockey Damien Oliver at the Melbourne Cup launch on October 30. Photo: AAP

On Monday, a relaxed Oliver said Moroney had been “quietly confident” Alenquer would recover in time to take his place in the 3200m handicap.

“It’s out of my hands,” said Oliver, a veteran of 31 Melbourne Cup rides.

“I want to be there riding a horse that can run close to his best.

“If he’s not well, I’m past just going there to make up the numbers and ride in a race for the sake of it.”

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