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Racing minister explains lowest Melbourne Cup crowd in 26 years

Victoria’s racing minister says there’s no single reason the Melbourne Cup pulled its lowest crowd in 26 years, but denies there’s “something wrong” with Australia’s greatest race.

81,408 racegoers attended Flemington on Tuesday — more than any race meeting anywhere in Australia this year, but well down on the capacity of over 100,000.

It’s the fourth consecutive year of declining crowds on Melbourne Cup day, although last year’s event (83,471) was nearly washed out due to severe weather and in 2017 (90,536) capacity was limited due to a construction site while the new VRC Club Stand was being built.

But there was no such weather nor construction sites yesterday, prompting a debate about whether Melburnians are tuning out in the wake of animal cruelty charges and media reports.

“Is there something wrong with the cup? I don’t think there is,” Minister Martin Pakula told Neil Mitchell.

“I think there’s a range of reasons.”

Among those reasons listed:

  • Taylor Swift withdrawing from a planned pre-race performance
  • Internal warring between NSW and Victorian racing bodies
  • Animal cruelty revelations
  • The impact of crowd capping since the record carnival of 418,069 in 2006

“Frankly, when it was over 100,000, Flemington was probably a bit uncomfortable,” Mr Pakula said.

Unruly behaviour and poor accessibility, especially when trying to leave the racetrack, dominated reasons from callers to Neil Mitchell.

Click PLAY to hear the full interview

(Above image: Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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