Racegoers pouring in to Flemington Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup

RACEGOERS have already started arriving at Flemington as Australians gear up for the race that stops a nation. With the Melbourne Cup still hours away, the gates are open at the track as organisers make last-minute preparations. It is expected the race will draw a massive betting plunge today, with punters shelling out $88 million last year with the TAB in Victoria and NSW alone.

The Melbourne Cup carnival will see gamblers bet much more. In 2008, a whopping $171.1 million was bet on Cup Day in NSW and Victoria with a grateful Tabcorp, not including the busy boomakers at the track.

Bart Cummings, the sentimental favourite, is seeking his 13th Melbourne Cup win, with last year's winner and favourite Viewed, which is backed at $4.80.

The South Australian gelding Alcopop is backed at $5.50 to win.

The Victorian Racing Club is expecting a crowd of more than 100,000. Melbourne streets are quiet for the Cup holiday, apart from punters headed to morning functions in their racing finery. Taxis are gearing up for a huge day and operators of the city’s trains and trams are under pressure to avoid any problems.

Melbourne’s plastic surgeons have reportedly been busy in recent days as women – and a few men – go under the needle to look their best.

Following overnight showers, the weather has cleared and forecasters say blue skies can be expected for much of the day. A top of 20C is tipped. Weather bureau senior forecaster Scott Williams said there had only been a small amount of rain at about 5am today and it would dry out quickly. "It will not affect the racetrack, and there won't be much for the remainder of the day at Flemington,'' he said. "There will be a cool blustery west to south-west breeze throughout the day. "It will average 35-40km/h gusting to 60km/h.

"It will be blustery for the ladies and their attire at the track, including those large brim hats they might regret wearing.''

The eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, 28-year-old Zara Phillips [left above] will attend the event and present the winning jockey with a trophy. Ms Phillips is a world champion equestrian competitor


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