It's known as the race that stops two nations, but for office workers, Melbourne Cup Day may just mean knocking off half an hour early.
Productivity losses from New Zealand employees downing tools for the race have been put at $19.5 million - but that's a pittance compared with the estimated $1 billion loss in Australia.
The time difference means the race isn't until 5pm in New Zealand, which explains why about 70 per cent of Kiwi workers take about 30 minutes off work to watch the race and have a flutter in office sweepstakes, according to a 2010 Ranstad survey.
However, human resources analysts said any short-term loss in productivity was usually made up in employee morale in following weeks.
Employee events were worth it, said Greg Mikkelsen, general manager government, enterprise and trans-Tasman at Gen-i.
"The benefit of colleagues being together and galvanised around something and being part of it . . . far outweighs any concerns we have in productivity loss. We find that staff are very appreciative."
Gen-i and Telecom staff at their Wellington and Auckland offices will knock off at 4pm for an office "day at the races".
Mr Mikkelsen said workers looked forward to Melbourne Cup Day. "It's a bit like the end of the soccer World Cup . . . people will sneak off to watch it, or they can come to a more formal event."
Money raised would go to Telecom Fund charity Sweet Louise, he said.
Vector chairman Michael Stiassny, a former New Zealand Racing Board chairman, said he would probably let workers take a half-hour break to watch the race.
"You've got to remember in New Zealand it's about 5pm . . . My workplace will probably disappear at about 4.30pm to go and watch it."
Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce spokesman Jeremy Harding said many businesses just accepted that they would close early.
"It's often a good opportunity for team building. In general, businesses aren't worried about absenteeism."
In Wellington, the Australian High Commission is hosting an invitation-only charity event for about 300 people.
The Featherston Bar & Grill in Featherston St will be showing the race and will offer a TAB betting table service.
Lovelocks, in Bond St, is offering free nibbles all day, and Four Kings in Taranaki St has free nibbles and a drink from 2pm to 4pm with All Whites coach Ricki Herbert announcing the race.
A FRENCH CUP QUINELLA OR A LONGSHOT?
If you have picked a 4-year-old male horse to win the Melbourne Cup, you could be on to a winner.
And if its jockey is wearing black or dark blue, you may have increased your chances.
For punters with a patriotic bent, there are only four New Zealand-bred horses running this year. However, they do not represent the best bet.
TAB bookmaker Thad Taylor said the Kiwi horses - offspring of New Zealand's greatest living sire, Zabeel - were longshots.
"The Melbourne Cup is dominated by European horses this year. This has turned into a really good race for European stayers."
Favourites are French duo Americain and Dunaden, who have won the last two Melbourne Cups, and English galloper Red Cadeaux, who ran second to Dunaden last year.
But if you're looking for a bet based - completely unscientifically - on the quirks of past winners, then put your money on a 4-year-old male horse, with its genitals intact and carrying No 4 or 12.
The jockey should be wearing black or dark blue.
If the horse lines up in barriers 5, 10, 11 or 14, it could be a goer. However, no horse has won the cup from barrier 18.
Of the four Kiwi-bred options, Taylor said the best options would be Maluckyday and Lights of Heaven. However, they would both be at reasonably long odds.
- The Dominion Post