There are big changes ahead for the 2018 edition of the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’ with Lexus to take over Melbourne Cup sponsorship and an increase to the prize money on offer for what is already the world’s richest handicap.


Rekindling won the final Emirates-sponsored Melbourne Cup in 2017 for Ireland’s Joseph O’Brien. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos.

For the past 14 years top-class airline Emirates have sponsored the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), contested on the first Tuesday of November annually as Flemington Race 7 at 3:00pm (AEDT).

The Victoria Racing Club (VRC) however are set to announce luxury car manufacturer Lexus as the new sponsor of the two mile classic from next spring.

There is also a predicted prize money increase for the Melbourne Cup pending, the race currently offering $6.25 million in total stakes that includes a $3.6 million winners’ cheque.

Until this year the Melbourne Cup was the country’s most lucrative horse race.

That changed after the Australian Turf Club (ATC) introduced the hugely successful Restricted $10 million The Everest (1200m) run at Royal Randwick for the first time on October 14 and won by Redzel.

A slot-race where connections purchase a starting position in the weight-for-age spring sprint at a cost of $600,000, The Everest was criticised early on as being an event for elitists.

It proved an innovative and well-supported race, rivalling the action taking place in Melbourne at Caulfield for Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas Day on the same date.

Racing NSW have already locked in a $3 million The Everest prize money increase taking the total stakes up to a draw-dropping $13 million, meaning it is work more than double the Melbourne Cup.

The Lexus deal to be signed off officially in the coming weeks will further cement the brand in punters’ minds around Cup time as they also sponsor the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500m) on VRC Derby Day that offers a final Melbourne Cup ballot exemption to the winner.

The final Emirates-sponsored Melbourne Cup took place on Tuesday and was won by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Rekindling who charged home late to run down the fellow Irish raider Johannes Vermeer trained by the winning horseman’s father Aidan O’Brien.

Those two gallopers are early tips in ante-post Melbourne Cup betting at for next year’s race despite an unlikely return down under for the Royal Ascot bound duo.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival action continues at Flemington Racecourse on Thursday with Ladies’ Day featuring the Group 1 $1 million Kennedy Oaks (2500m) for the three-year-old staying fillies.

Formerly known as the Crown Oaks, the VRC Oaks race was renamed in 2017 with the VRC engaged in a new sponsorship deal with Kennedy Jewellers.

Aloisia is the odds-on favourite after the Thousand Guineas winning filly easily accounted for Cliff’s Edge with a three-and-a-half-length Group 2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) win on Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day when taking on the colts and geldings.

The daughter of Azamour is now prepared by Aaron Purcell who took over training duties for the suspended Ciaron Maher.

Maher won the VRC Oaks back-to-back in 2014-15 with Set Square and Jamkea respectively, the latter coming off a Moonee Valley Vase win as Aloisia does this year.

The other favourites in the latest Oaks markets including the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Ethereal Stakes winner Pinot and Derby Day’s Wakeful Stakes winner Luvaluva prepared by 2013 winning horseman John Sargent.