YOUNGSTERS at Aberdeen Pre-School rushed past the winning post on Thursday to view Australia's most iconic sporting silverware.
Ironically, as the Upper Hunter celebrated the traditional horses' birthday on August 1, the 17th annual Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour rolled into the region.
After spending the morning at Godolphin's Kelvinside stud farm, and a quick visit to Aberdeen Public School, the $200,000 18-carat gold trophy soon found its way to the Belford Street educational facility - much to the delight of the kids.
Former champion jockey John Letts also entertained the "littlies" and staff with stories about the "race that stops a nation" on the first Tuesday in November and his own career, which included two Melbourne Cup victories.
"The children know it's a treat [today]," Aberdeen Pre-School director Sharon Jordan said.
"So, they are very excited.
"They're also aware it is the horses' birthday, but to have the Cup here as well is fantastic.
"We're thrilled to be involved."
Mr Letts, who saluted the judges aboard Piping Lane in 1972 and Beldale Ball in 1980, admitted he was a huge fan of the Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour concept, which took in Scone and Gundy, too.
"I love coming to the rural and regional areas," he said.
"It's a chance for country people to experience the magic of the Melbourne Cup up close and personal.
"The race means something different to everyone - but it's Aussie through and through.
"We're calling on 39 cities in six countries this time around.
"And, the reaction is bigger every year."
Despite riding more than 2300 winners, over almost three decades, Mr Letts has fond memories of the Melbourne Cup.
"Both [victories] were special for me - for dissimilar reasons," he said.
"With Piping Lane, I'd never been to Flemington before.
"I hadn't even seen the horse or met the trainer.
"Then, to prevail on Beldale Ball for Colin Hayes and Robert Sangster, that meant a lot to me.
"It was also their first taste of success in the big race.
"These days, I honestly get a thrill out of seeing jockeys win [the Cup].
"I know it's their lifelong dream."
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