With a record setting Melbourne Cup crowd – predicted to be upwards of
140,000 – descending on Flemington in anticipation of history in the making, the
wider public around Australia is also flying the Makybe Diva flag by betting at
record levels.

The day after a
report showed that Australians on average gamble $17 a week by one means or
another, NSW Tab reports this morning that its betting turnover is up by a
phenomenal 39% at the same point last year, and of course it’s essentially being
driven by the emotion of rooting for Makybe Diva’s tilt at a third straight cup

However, while
the track was sufficiently watered to be rated dead before the first race the
professional punters are looking for their cup winner outside the people’s

Mind you, that
didn’t stop a very secretive mystery punter materialising with Northern
Territory corporate bookmaker Sportingbet; allowing bookie Michael Sullivan to
again bask in the avalanche of publicity with a $1 million bet on the nose of the
Diva to win $3 million if she salutes. It is believed to be the biggest individual punt on the cup since Kerry
Packer terrorised local bookies both on his own account, and in
league with his one-time Crown Casino partner and friend Lloyd Williams.

But this expatriate Australian said
to be living and working in Europe is also claimed to have famously lost a $5
million bet with Sullivan on champion Lonhro, when he was beaten in his final race last
year. However, when this punter first
emerged, rival bookies were openly sceptical that such
a client existed, which Sullivan put down to jealousy. Yet in an industry famous
for bookies knowing each other’s clientele, he defies the odds by keeping his identity a secret.

With estimates
of upwards of $300 million being splurged on this unofficial national holiday
and more than a quarter of all Cup bets being directed at the champion mare, it’s
comforting to know the Diva-driven economy is being closely monitored by the
Reserve Bank whose board is meeting in Sydney today.

The race will
be broadcast live on BBC5 from 4am in the UK with Jim McGrath’s call
also going out via the BBC World Service, but as yesterday’s Scotsman newspaper

It may
be the race that stops a nation in Australia but on this side of the world, The
Melbourne Cup is the race that gets a bleary-eyed nation up out of bed in the
middle of the night. A worldwide
television audience of 700 million is expected to tune in to see tomorrow’s big
event in Victoria, although with a 4am start, any Pom that wants to join them
will have to set the alarm clock.