Famed authority on the Melbourne Cup, Max Hitchins, was also the former proprietor of Bondi Junction’s iconic Billy the Pig’s, which won every year, courtesy of its dedication to the race that stops the nation.
Hitchins – known in certain circles as Melbourne Cup Max for his in-depth knowledge of the big event, able to cite winners and posts for every meet since its inception – was a publican for many years, and is the longest-standing member of the legendary 15 Club.
Owning Billy the Pig’s from 1990-2000, he marketed it as the ‘Friendliest pub in town’, capitalising on the popularity of the 1995 film Babe. The pub was one of the first in the country to have a professional website, even offering ‘Billy’s Bucks’ vouchers to print off and bring in for discounts.
Hitchins’ passion for The Cup continues, and each year he produces a publication* packed with research and statistics for every contender, along with sage advice on potential winners in a variety of circumstances on the day.
Melbourne Cup Max offers advice on what pubs can do to maximise their bets.
In our pub in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney we ‘owned’ the Melbourne Cup, and each year we won big. Over time we made Melbourne Cup Day our biggest and busiest day of the year. Here’s how.
(1) Firstly, we recognised the importance of having ‘everyone singing from the same song book’. Hence at our weekly staff meeting, we set the goal to become the #1 place in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney for Melbourne Cup Day. Every one of our managers was invited to suggest ideas on how we could do this.
(2) Most people think in terms of the Melbourne Cup being a one-day event. At our meetings we decided we would make it a month-long event, and discussed it at each weekly meeting, thinking about and planning for it throughout the year.
(3) In October, every afternoon we ran videos of previous Melbourne Cups on our TV screens. We had competitions and prizes for anyone who could tell the 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each race, with prizes for the winners.
(4) We had ‘premium seating’ in front of the big screen for Melbourne Cup Day. We had competitions leading up to the Melbourne Cup for these prized seats.
(5) During October we gave away subscriptions to How To Pick The Winner Of The Melbourne Cup. With this came automatic entry into the $1000.00 first prize Sweep run at the pub.
(6) For the entire month of October we told our customers of the benefits of arriving early and staying late on Cup Day. The first 100 people through the doors in both bars on Cup Day got free Mystery Trifectas, which we bought from the TAB.
(7) Beginning in October, on a special Notice Board we had a Melbourne Cup tipping competition, where we invited our customers to write their Melbourne Cup selection. They had to include a date and time with the tip.
After the Cup we reviewed the Notice Board and the first correct person (by date) became our Melbourne Cup Guru for the following year, and won $100. We took photos of him/her and promoted the story on the Melbourne Cup Notice Board.
(8) We ran a Calcutta on Melbourne Cup Eve. On Cup Day we ran as many Sweeps as we could fill, from $2 to $20.
(9) We promoted the idea of ‘signing in for a drink’ for at least 20 out of the 31 days in October. Everyone who did this automatically went into the a $20 Sweep for free. First prize $300, 2nd prize $100, 3rd prize $80.
Each day and each customer who came in the month of October to ‘sign in’ we gave Melbourne Cup Day dollars. They could spend these ‘after’ the running of the Cup on Cup Day, to celebrate or commiserate.
(10) All our staff were dressed in Jockeys Racing Silks on Cup Day.
(11) On Cup Day we had fashion parades and gave prizes for the best dressed. We also gave prizes for the best Ladies Hats.
(12) Another idea that came out of the Managers meetings focussed on keeping the crowd after the Cup: we continued to give out mystery trifecta tickets for all the races following the Cup.
Did it all work. You bet your life it did.
*Max Hitchins produces ‘How to Pick the Winner of the Melbourne Cup’.