Melbourne Cup Fighting For Attention in America
by Jason Shandler
Date Posted: 11/1/2007 4:50:04 PM
Last Updated: 11/3/2007 1:22:09 PM

The Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus gr.1) trophy
In most years, the Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) occurs only two days (because of the time zone difference) after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, allowing the world’s richest handicap race to stay fresh in the minds of American and European racing fans.

But this year, with the Breeders’ Cup falling a bit earlier on the calendar (it does so again in 2008), there are nine full days between the two events. It has presented a slightly different marketing challenge for Wyvern International, the Louisville-based company that handles simulcasting for Australian horse racing in the United States.

“We learned very quickly that the Breeders' Cup dominates the press here in the U.S., Canada and partially in England and Ireland," said David Llewellyn, president of Wyvern. "You can't fight it, so we joined them last year placing a highly-produced 30 second commercial within the Breeders' Cup telecast. The commercial aired worldwide and highlighted the 147 year tradition of The Emirates Melbourne Cup which could be watched two days later.

“This year we did not place an ad due to the gap between the Breeders' Cup and the Emirates Melbourne Cup.”

Although there will be no television advertisement this year, Wyvern is hoping that American and European horse players will not forget about the event, which was first run in 1861 and is globally known as the ‘staying championship of the world.’

In Australia, the Melbourne Cup is a national celebration and a public holiday. There, it is referred to as the ‘race that stops a nation.’ It is celebrated with a four-day party, known as the Melbourne Cup Carnival, culminating with the $5-million Melbourne Cup to be held Nov. 6. The prestigious two-mile race attracts 120,000 to Flemington Racecourse.

Last year, an estimated 700 million people in 170 countries watched the Melbourne Cup. India, Singapore, New Zealand, Mexico, Sweden, and Japan are just some of the countries where the race is popular.

More than $140 million was wagered worldwide on the Melbourne Cup last year, but the race is still not as popular in America as the Victoria Racing Club would like it to be. Llewellyn thinks it has the potential to be better received in the states.

“We understand that we’re battling the Breeders’ Cup and there are a lot of obstacles to overcome, including a long trip and quarantine.” Llewellyn said. “But the Victoria Racing Club wants very badly to bring American horses to the Emirates Melbourne Cup. In the past (14) years, a couple of Irish horses won the race and last year, a Japanese horse won for the first time. If American owners were willing to bring their horses over, it might bring more attention.”

Melbourne Cup aside, Australian simulcasting has grown significantly in America over the past decade with handle up more than 11% since last year alone. Llewellyn said late night posts times (usually 8 or 10 p.m. EST) and the consistency of racing appeals to a lot of American bettors.

“We simulcast seven days a week, 52 weeks a year,” he said. “There are only two days out of the year we don't race. We even simulcast on Christmas Day. If a punter (as they are referred to in Australia) in Oregon likes to wager on Portland Meadows, what will he or she do when the season is over? There's Australian racing. Every night, all year long."

The Melbourne Cup will be televised in the states by HRTV Nov. 5 beginning at 4 p.m. Post time for the race is 6:20 p.m. EST.

 



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