9th November 2023

The Melbourne Cup

I’m writing this on Cup Day in Melbourne, so I am deviating from writing about buttons.

When was the first Cup Day?

A Mr Frederick Charles Standish, of the Victorian Turf Club, suggested a two mile handicap race to be called the “Melbourne Cup” to be held during the spring.

Bell’s Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle (Melbourne), 19th January 1861 page 3.

The Herald (Melbourne), 5th February 1861 page 5.

Horses were to be nominated by May and accepted to race in July. The prize was to be 710 gold sovereigns, which attracted notice from around the colony, and indeed from around Australia.

The first Cup was held on a Thursday, with 18 horses starting.  Archer came first, with Mormon second. The victory by Sydney horse Archer caught many by surprise, with some bookies caught out. Two horses were killed, and two jockeys suffered broken bones in an accident during the race. A small crowd of around 4,000 people watched; as the city was in mourning over Burke and Wills.

The Herald (Melbourne), 25th November 1861 page 7.

None-the-less, by the following January it was decided that the race would become an annual event. In 1862 Archer again came first, with Mormon again second. The race had already established itself as premier racing event, with large numbers attending. The running of the Cup on the first Tuesday occurred for the first time in 1875. The first actual “Cup” was awarded in 1865. See https://adb.anu.edu.au/essay/1

National Library 1865 photo ID 46643799. Apparently the winner thought the cup “a monstrosity” and sold it.

The Australian News for Home Readers (Vic), 25th November 1864. That year’s winner, Lantern.

The Australian News for Home Readers (Vic), 25th November 1865 page 9.

Illustrated Australian news (Melb), 5th November 1881 page 209: The finish for the Melbourne Cup.

The Australasian (Melbourne), 29th October 1892 page 48. That year’s Cup.

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