News National The scandals, celebrities and moments that changed the Melbourne Cup

The scandals, celebrities and moments that changed the Melbourne Cup

Usain Bolt opens a bottle of champagne in the Birdcage on Melbourne Cup Day. Photo: TND
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It’s that time of the year when millions of Australians place their bets on the race that stops the nation.

But in classic COVID-safe style, would-be Melbourne Cup attendees will have to watch it from home instead.

This time, there will be no celebrity sightings at the Birdcage, nor scenes of drunken celebration and stilettos getting stuck in grass.

As the 2020 Cup goes virtual, The New Daily steps back in time to remember the highs and lows of Melbourne’s biggest racing day – and the forgotten celebrity guests.

‘Go and find the smallest child on this course’

In 2005, thoroughbred racehorse Makybe Diva shocked the racing world by becoming the first horse to win the Melbourne Cup on three occasions.

But that’s not the only reason people remember that historic day.

When asked about Makybe Diva’s record-breaking win, her trainer Lee Freedman famously said:

Go and find the smallest child on this course, because they will be an example of the only person here that will live long enough to see something like that again.”
Jockey Glen Boss is hoisted in the air by Makybe Diva’s owner Tony Santic (right) and trainer Lee Freedman (left) after victory in the Melbourne Cup in 2005. Photo: Getty

The line went down in history as one of the greatest Cup moments of all time.

Memorable celebrity sightings

From Olympic athletes to supermodels, politicians and performers, the Melbourne Cup has attracted some of the biggest names in the world.

And it doesn’t get much bigger than Diana, Princess of Wales.

On Cup Day in 1985, the beloved royal turned heads by donning a suit by British fashion designer Bruce Oldfield and a hat by Frederick Fox.

Princess Diana at Flemington in 1985. Photo: Getty

Other internationally famous Cup attendees include Jamaican sprinter and eight-time Olympic gold medallist, Usain Bolt.

And then there are the juicy hook-ups in the Birdcage.

If social media existed in 2003, there’s no doubt the unexpected Cup fling between American socialite Paris Hilton and Australian Idol star Rob Mills would have gone viral.

Paris Hilton and Rob Mills at the Melbourne Cup in 2003. Photo: Twitter

Another Birdcage romance that stole the limelight was a multi-millionaire’s shock marriage proposal in 2014.

At 71 years old, Australian medical entrepreneur Geoffrey Edelsten stunned surrounding VIP guests when he dropped to one knee and proposed to his then girlfriend Gabi Grecko, aged 24.

Geoffrey Edelsten Gabi Grecko
Geoffrey and Gabi Grecko were a 2014 surprise packet. Photo: Getty

Other shocking moments include American pop star Taylor Swift suddenly pulling out of performing at the 2019 Melbourne Cup after animal rights’ activists hounded her on social media.

“Taylor Swift has put money before compassion by agreeing to perform at the 2019 Melbourne Cup,” the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses said on its Facebook page at the time.

Ms Swift’s representative blamed the move on scheduling changes related to her Asia tour.

A champion trainer’s fall from grace

Just like gambling, scandal and horse racing appear to go hand in hand.

Fresh in the minds of many Victorians is the dramatic fall from grace of champion horse trainer Darren Weir.

Once regarded as the state’s pin-up boy of racing, Weir set a new Commonwealth training record with 348 winners in a season, including the famous Melbourne Cup win of Prince of Penzance in 2015.

Darren Weir and jockey Michelle Payne celebrate after the historic Melbourne Cup victory in 2015. Photo: Getty

But in January last year, his reputation was tarnished when police raided his properties and charged him with conspiracy to cheat and defraud Racing Victoria stewards.

Weir and two others are accused of using electric shock devices, poly piping, blinkers and whistling on horses at Warrnambool in what police allege was conduct that tortured, abused, overworked and terrified the horses and caused them unreasonable pain and suffering.

darren weir banned
Darren Weir (right) leaves Racing Victoria’s headquarters after being banned for four years. Photo: AAP

The men will likely tune into this year’s Cup from home, where they remain on bail.

For all the fashion tips, food inspiration and behind-the-scenes content during this week of racing, click here.

The Melbourne Cup is on Tuesday, November 3, followed by Oaks Day on Thursday and Stakes Day on Saturday.