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Our Complete Guide to Flemington Racecourse

While searching for the most impressive horse racing venues in the world, we came across Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Once we started reading about the property in the capital city of Victoria, we quickly realized how magnificent the place really is. We knew we needed to organize all the highlights onto one page and share it with all of you.

The end result is the guide you are reading now! We plan on spending the next few sections explaining what makes Flemington so special. From its origin more than 175 years ago to what major races are held there today, we are going to cover it all.

We’ll talk about the facility and racetrack in enough detail to make you want to head to Melbourne and experience it for yourself. Don’t be surprised if our tips and advice on the surrounding area and how to get there have you itching to schedule a trip!

Start with a few basic facts about Flemington Racecourse before diving into the rest of the guide.

Overview of Flemington Racecourse

Year Opened
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Victoria Racing Club
Course Type
Flat, Jumps
Notable Races
Melbourne Cup, Australian Cup, Victoria Derby, LKS Mackinnon Stakes
Official Website
Overview of Flemington Racecourse

Flemington Racecourse’s History

The most recognizable racecourse in all of Australia didn’t gain that title overnight. It didn’t get named to in 2006 just because it’s a large place with some important races. You have to be incredibly significant to be elevated to that stature.

So how did Flemington receive that title?

You have to go all the way back to 1840 because that’s when the first race meeting was held on the grounds. We say “grounds,” because back then, it simply was referred to as Melbourne Racecourse. The owner of the land was a gentleman by the name of James Watson. He named the course Flemington after the name of the town in Scotland that his wife grew up in.

It didn’t take long for the new name to catch on, as he also built the Flemington Hotel in 1848. The Victoria Turf Club came along in 1852, followed by the Victoria Jockey Club in 1857. By 1864, the two joined forces, and the Victoria Racing Club was firmly established.

With a proper racecourse and a legitimate governing force behind it, Flemington was ready to be a fixture in the Thoroughbred racing scene. It isn’t just a coincidence that the Melbourne Cup, the most prestigious horse race in all of Australia, is hosted at Flemington.

There is a reason that a handful of other prominent Group 1 races like the Australian Cup and the Victoria Derby take place at the sacred grounds next to the scenic Maribyrnong River. We want to get to these bigtime events, but we need to first tell you a lot more about Flemington. For some specifics about the racecourse, continue reading below.

Illustrating the Property

In terms of capacity, Flemington is the largest racecourse outside of Japan in the entire world. We are talking bigger than any racing facility in the United States, England, Ireland, or anywhere else you think has grand racetracks. More than 130,000 fans can fit inside Flemington to spectate a race. You better believe that when the Melbourne Cup comes around, they fill the place up to the brim.

The Spectators at a Busy Horse Racing Event at Flemington Racecourse
Flemington Racecourse can accommodate VERY large crowds.

The shape of Flemington’s track isn’t a perfect oval or a circle, but more resembles a pear. The counter-clockwise track is the site of the most acclaimed turf races in all of Australia. The perimeter of the track is 2,312 meters, which includes a 450-meter straight.

There’s the 1200-meter “Straight Six” Course, which is named for the straight section of running room that lasts six furlongs. If you want to see Thoroughbreds galloping as fast as they can on a straightaway, this is where it happens. The surface of the track is made up of Pro-Ride, which consists of six inches of footing. The footing is made up of a combination of sand, nylon, and spandex fibers that is then coated in a polymeric binder.

All of this comes on top of another layer of similar materials that have a sophisticated drainage system underneath. Throw in the numerous starting points on the course, and you are looking at quite the versatile racetrack.

So where do all the patrons get to take in the festivities that are held at this forward-thinking racecourse? It depends. They have choices!

There are three grandstands at Flemington with multiple angles to enjoy the races from. After constructing a $45 million grandstand in 2000, Flemington decided to give their members a big upgrade. We are talking about a that is set to be completed in time for the 2023 Melbourne Cup, and let us tell you – this will be unlike any other grandstand in Australia.

A 360-degree view of the track will contain bars, pizza ovens, barbecues, and many more exciting elements that will make going to races at Flemington different than anything else race fans have felt before. Victoria Racing Club chair Amanda Elliott told the Herald Sun that the expansion will “raise the bar” and offer an “unrivaled race day experience.” She also went to say the following.

“We need to give people a memorable race day experience that
isn’t just picking a winner. The rest of the world is very
interested in this development.”

There is absolutely no debating how gorgeous and stunning of a venue Flemington Racecourse is becoming. Part of this is because of how enormous the Melbourne Cup has gotten over the years. Allow us to elaborate.

The Most Well-Known Races at Flemington

Melbourne has three other racetracks in the city. However, none are as noteworthy as Flemington. There is no doubt that the “cream of the crop” horse racing competitions in Melbourne are hosted at the racecourse we devoted this entire guide to.

There are several lucrative horse races at Flemington Racecourse, including 13 Group 1 events. As competitive as all of them are, none are as esteemed as the world-renowned Melbourne Cup. We’ll make sure to address some of the other well-known races at the storied location, but we must start with the granddaddy of them all.

Melbourne Cup

If you live anywhere in Victoria or are even the slightest bit of a racing fan, the Melbourne Cup is a familiar race to you. More than 6.2 million Australian dollars were on the line during the 2017 edition, the same number that has been offered at the historic event since 2012.

Inaugurated in 1861 when Flemington Racecourse was first putting itself on the map, the amount of rich history and tradition at the Melbourne Cup seems endless. That is part of the reason that we decided not to try and jam it all into our Flemington Racecourse guide.

The Melbourne Cup, held on the first Tuesday of November every year, is far too significant of a race to not have its own, individual page. By clicking the button below, you’ll be directed straight to a world revolving around the Melbourne Cup. We’ll showcase the most unforgettable moments and tell you exactly why it has become known as the “race that stops a nation.”

Australian Cup

We won’t try and argue that the Australian Cup is as meaningful or as anticipated as the Melbourne Cup, but don’t bat your eyelashes at this event. While the Melbourne Cup is the crown-jewel event of the fall racing season, the Australian Cup is that to the spring season.

Just two years after the Melbourne Cup was established came the Australian Cup. The March race has AU$1.5 million attached to it as of 2023, and don’t expect to see any inexperienced Thoroughbreds here. Maidens, or horses who have not won a race, are not eligible to compete in the Australian Cup. Call it what you want, but this race is designed for champions.

Just like the Melbourne Cup, we want to share the highlights and biggest moments of the event with you. Indulge yourself by pressing the tab below. Everything else to know about the Australian Cup is just a click away.

Victoria Derby

Three-year-old Thoroughbreds that have the energy to last for 2,500 meters on turf can try and qualify for the Victoria Derby. Held in November, there is AU$1.5 million up for grabs, and you can bet the owners and trainers will be reaching.

First run in 1855, the Victoria Derby actually came before the aforementioned races. It used to be run as a 1 ½-mile event but was altered to 2,400 meters in 1972. After recognizing they needed a little more room from the beginning of the race to the first turn, they lengthened the race to 2,500 meters in 1973, the same distance it stands in the present day.

Now for a few facts about the Victoria Derby’s history.

The fastest time recorded since the switch to 2,500 meters came in 1991 when Star Of The Realm whipped around Flemington in 2:33.60. Bobby Lewis is the most accomplished jockey at the Victoria Derby, thanks to his eight wins in the event. In 2005, Clare Lindop became the first female jockey to have a date with the starting gate, although her best moment here came three years later in 2008. Aboard Rebel Raider, Clare became the first female jockey to win the Victoria Derby.

LKS Mackinnon Stakes

One last Group 1 November race to tackle is the LKS Mackinnon Stakes. Three-year-old and up Thoroughbreds can run in this event, but they need to have won a race prior. It started out in 1869 as the Melbourne Stakes and didn’t change names till 1937. Up until 2014, it was held on the same day as the Victoria Derby.

There have been 13 horses who have achieved “the double,” known for winning both the LKS Mackinnon Stakes and the Melbourne Cup in the same year. However, it hasn’t happened since Rogan Josh won them both in 1999.

Don’t think for a second that this is just a warmup race or that it isn’t notable in its own right. Believe us, this race can stand on its own. With AU$2 million on the line, we are pretty sure the LKS Mackinnon Stakes has the attention of all owners of three-year-old racing Thoroughbreds in Australia.

Melbourne Is a Premier Destination

So, let’s take stock in Flemington Racecourse so far. You know how and when it got started, and we unveiled some particulars about the track. We have alluded to the enormity of the property and have made references to how amazing of a city Melbourne is.

But we want to take it a step further. If you are going to travel to Melbourne to check out Flemington Racecourse, we want to help you set up the rest of your itinerary. There is so much do and see in the capital of Victoria that you’ll have to just squeeze in as much as you can. Allow us to just run through some of the high points you should consider if and when you make the trip.

Federation Square is an ultra-modern construction built in 2002 that is right across the street from Flinders Street Station, a common public transportation hub in the city. The National Gallery of Victoria is a place to see some of the most interesting and unique art you will ever encounter.

Are you a fan of cricket? If so, make sure you stop by the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the when you get to town. Your biggest challenge will be having enough hours in the day to be able to see everything that’s worth seeing. We suggest giving yourself as much time as possible to explore the city of Melbourne.

Melbourne Is a Great City with Plenty to See and Do
Melbourne should be on everyone’s list of destinations to visit.

Don’t fall too in love with the fantastic city, though. You may never want to go back home!

Getting There

Flemington Racecourse is positioned right in the middle of everything in Melbourne. Most of the places you are going to want to check out are going to be in close proximity to the racecourse. For example, let’s say you find yourself perusing through Queen Victoria Market. You will be less than 5 km away from Flemington. The Melbourne Zoo is even closer to the racecourse!

If you don’t mind taking a casual stroll, walking to Flemington is an option, especially if it happens to be a nice day outside. If you are coming from the Royal Botanic Gardens or Luna Park, perhaps an Uber or public transportation makes a little more sense.

For those of you who have never been to Melbourne, it’s really as easy and simple as it sounds. Melbourne’s major airport, sometimes called Tullamarine, is just 20 minutes or so directly north of the property. No matter where you are coming from, you will be able to find connections here.

On the other hand, Essendon Airport might not be as straightforward to fly into if you are coming from a distant country. The smaller airport in Melbourne is about 10 minutes closer to the racecourse on virtually the same line but will be more limited in its selections.

Between the two airports, we promise you’ll be able to find your way to Melbourne!

On race days at Flemington, you can actually take direct trains right to the racecourse. Departing from Flinders Street Station or Southern Cross Station can take you directly to where you are trying to go. You can also hop on the #57 West Maribyrnong tram at the intersection of Flinders and Elizabeth and let it drop you off you off at Flemington Drive.

Buses and ride-sharing platforms can also be taken advantage of, and quite frankly, should be utilized if you are unfamiliar with the area. Why hassle with trying to find and pay for parking when you can be let off right in front of the entrance?

As you can see, there are loads of ways to get to Flemington Racecourse once you arrive in Melbourne. As long as you end up at the track in time for the Thoroughbreds to start racing, you’ve done your job!

Summing Up Flemington Racecourse

We wanted to make sure you got a glimpse of Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately, the largest horse racing venue on the planet outside of Japan cannot be fully revealed in a guide that you just read on a screen or sheets of paper.

In order to truly appreciate the magnificence and grandeur of Flemington Racecourse, you kind of need to go there yourself. We did our best to explain a little bit about how it got started and what the facilities are like to give you a basic idea of the foundation. The pear-shaped track is home to some of the most illustrious races in all of Thoroughbred racing, not just Australia.

Events such as the Melbourne Cup and Australian Cup are simply too admired to just sum up in a few short sentences. We provided individual pages on the two flagship races at Flemington. We hope you veered off and checked them out.

The racecourse is just one of the many tremendously fun places to see when traveling to Victoria’s capital city. Between all the options of transportation, getting around the city and navigating to and from the racecourse will be a breeze.

Everything at Flemington is right there for the taking. We hope you can make it to the famous racecourse at some point in your life. If you find yourself debating on whether or not to go, this guide can serve as a reminder of how much fun you can have!

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