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AAMI Victoria Derby Day: What You Need To Know


9 races, 2,500 metres and more than 90,000 attendees. Discover the history behind one of Australia’s most prestigious racing days.

Each year the Melbourne Cup Carnival kicks off with AAMI Victoria Derby Day. Behind the glitz and glamour of Flemington, there’s a proud history and a race that’s been running for generations.

How it came about 

The Victoria Derby is Australia’s oldest classic race and a favourite amongst racing traditionalists. For over 150 years it has been the feature race of the first day of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival, and regarded by race-lovers, fashionistas and celebrities as one of the best racing days in Australia. So, how did it come about? 

First run on Wednesday November 7 in 1855, the Victoria Derby was inspired by the Epsom Derby, which was established in 1779 by the 12th Earl of Derby. Since that first race the tradition was established, with race-goers flocking to Flemington every year to enjoy the food, fashion and fun.

The facts and figures

This year will be the 26th year that AAMI has sponsored Victoria Derby Day. It’s a high stakes race and run on what’s known for being one of the toughest tracks, so participating horses need the staying power possessed by properly trained thoroughbreds in their prime. For this reason, the race is only open to three-year-old thoroughbreds. Initially, the race was run at a distance of 1.5 miles, but this changed in 1972 to 2,400 metres to conform with the newly introduced metric system. In 1973 the race distance was altered to 2,500 metres (as it stands today), to give horses more time to approach the first turn of the track safely. Throughout the day, nine races are run, with the Victoria Derby race being the highlight of the day and having the greatest prize money attached to the win.

Fashions on the field

High fashion and horseracing go hand-in-hand, and AAMI Victoria Derby Day is no different. Since 1960, the dress code for the Victoria Derby has been black and white. The flower of the day, the blue cornflower, is the perfect addition to add a pop of colour. Entrants to the Fashions on the Field race wear competition must conform to the dress code and must register prior to race day.

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