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Melbourne's unique Cup of crazy

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The Melbourne Cup stops the nation for a few minutes, but it stops Melbourne for days.

Not content with a public holiday on Tuesday, the sports mad southern city ceases normal business from Friday night on.

But people don’t put their feet up – they go Cup crazy.

The Saturday before Cup day is Derby Day, when 90,000-odd people don their Saturday best and make the trek to Flemington racecourse.

Sunday mightn’t have a race on, but turn on a TV or radio or pick up a paper and it’s wall-to-wall Cup coverage.

And Monday, with just 24 hours to go, tens of thousands of people lined Swanston St for the annual Melbourne Cup parade.

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It’s not just Melburnians affected by the madness: racegoers come in from all over the country.

Sandra Wright used to be a Cup regular, but moved away to Cairns a few years ago.

“I’ve come down to Melbourne especially for the Cup,” she said.

Mick Sullivan made it from Canberra for Saturday’s Derby Day and Tuesday’s Cup.

“I’ve been a couple of times,” he said.

Among the parade first-timers was England-based Italian jockey Andrea Atzeni, who is riding My Ambivalent in the $6 million race.

The 23-year-old watched the waving crowds as he passed along Swanston St perched atop a convertible sports car.

“I ride in England a lot and Royal Ascot is massive, but I don’t think it’s as big as this,” he said.

“It’s my first time in Melbourne and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Monday is something of an unofficial public holiday with many workers taking an extra day to make a four-day weekend and some schools giving students a study day.

It’s four days of festivities that somehow only Melbourne could do – something the First Lady of Racing, trainer Gai Waterhouse, was rather blunt about as she passed along the parade route in an open carriage.

“Sydney’s got a lot to learn,” she said.

“They’ve got no idea how to put on a carnival. It’s really sad.”

Meanwhile, Japanese stayer Admire Rakti remains the favourite in a Melbourne Cup field dominated by a record 11 international horses.

An expected 100,000 people will flock to Flemington Racecourse for Australia’s richest horse race on Tuesday.

Famous faces including Australian model Megan Gale, Bold and the Beautiful star Ron Moss and eighties band Spandau Ballet will be among those sipping champagne in the exclusive Birdcage enclosure.

Rumours are rife that The Rolling Stones, in town for a gig, will also put in a surprise appearance.

Early indications for the weather are good, with a balmy 28C forecast for the 3pm race.

But a warning has been issued for powerful winds gusting at up to 100 km/h and an accompanying drop of 10C in the temperature at 5pm.

– AAP

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