The Melbourne Cup Trophy

History of Australian racing's most sought after prize

The 1919 Melbourne Cup, won by Artilleryman, was the first time the coveted trophy featured the gold three-handled design so instantly recognised as the iconic Melbourne Cup.

The inaugural race in 1861 awarded the winner prizemoney only. It was another four years before a trophy was also presented. From then on the VRC Committee selected a different trophy each year. The first gold cup trophy was presented to the connections of Briseis, winner in 1876. Although there were a couple of Australian Made trophies in the 1880s, typically a piece of English decorative sterling silver featured as the trophy-the designs varied greatly from cast statues featuring classical figures to monumental rose bowls and elegant tea services.

With the outbreak of WWI and resulting infrequent and unreliable shipping, the VRC committee abandoned its preference for imports. From 1916 the Melbourne Cup was crafted locally by goldsmith James Steeth under commission of Melbourne firm William Drummond and Co. That year Steeth created an elegant 18ct gold piece featuring a hand fashioned bowl with three fine handles and small footings. This design, although looking more like an oversized sugar bowl, was based on the tradition of a loving cup, a ceremonial vessel with multiple handles intended for shared drinking and representing a shared celebration. Steeth developed the design over the next two years by adding a stem and three-tiered base to the cup but reducing the handles to only two. In 1919, Steeth made the final change to the design returning to the three handles, now fashioned in a much broader style. This is the iconic design that has remained relatively unchanged for more than a century.

Today, the Lexus Melbourne Cup is made by ABC Bullion using 44 pieces of handcrafted 18 carat Australian gold sourced from Evolution Mining’s Cowal Mine, situated outside West Wyalong. It sits on a unique Australian Jarrah wood base and is valued at $275,000.

Source: Victoria Racing Club