Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Ex-CDA comments, suggestions, criticisms

Melbourne Cups That Weren't


The “Melbourne Cup”, i e  the famous race, was first run in 1861, but many will not realize the name was something of a misnomer – in fact, owners up until 1916 were given a wide variety of trophies rather than a “Cup” - and most of them probably of more practical value than today's presentation, which other than the aspects prestige and curiosity value have little more of practical merit than their “melt-down” value

Some of the “Cups” presented to the winning owner(s) noted were in reality

1861, Archer, the first ever running of the event, a hand-beaten gold watch

1865, Tory Boy, an elaborate silver bowl on a stand that had been manufactured in England

1867, Tim Whiffler (Sydney) *, advertised as "a piece of plate", value 100 sovereigns, made in England

(see image, National Museum of Australia)

1876, Briseis, the first gold trophy manufactured locally, a two handled vase depicted a horse race,

scenes of Flemington and the winner's name  (right)

1877-86, no trophy presented

1887, Dunlop, gold horseshoe on a plush stand, value 100 sovereigns

1888, Mentor, a fine art group with three silver horses on a pedestal

1890, Carbine, perhaps one of the most renowned “Cup” winners, a silver claret jug, with a silver rosewater dish and five silver  dessert dishes (on display at the National Sports Museum at the M C G , sold at a Sotheby's auction in 2000 for $272,250)  

1891, Malvolio, fine art group in silver, with a figure “Victory” on tree stump with laurel wreath,

1893, Tarcoola, chased silver punch bowl and beakers, 18 inch salver tray and silver tankard

1894-1898, no trophy presented due to depresses economic conditions

1899, Merriwee, a three-year-old who also won the Caulfield Cup and owned by V.R.C. committeeman Herbert Power. The trophy (right) was an engraved presentation tray and tea and coffee service, sold at Sotheby's in Melbourne in 2016 for $103,700

1900, Clean Sweep,  silver tea and coffee service, possibly the same as that of 1899

1908, Lord Nolan,  a three-feet long plaque mounted with an embossed silver galloping horse

1909-11 Prince Foote, Comedy King  The Parisian, Two-handled silver cups

1912, Piastre and 1913, Posinatus, large silver epergne (typically a large silver table centre piece designed to hold fruit or flowers)

1915, Patrobus, a two-handled square silver rose bowl embossed with a shield, horse and jockey (made in Australia)  Perhaps significant in that Patrobus was the first "Cup" winner to be owned by a woman - Mrs E  A Widdis of Gippsland   Legend has it that she was refused entrance to the post-race ceremony because officials could not believe she owned the colt and instead presented the trophy to her husband!

1916, The owners of Sansanof were the first Melbourne Cup winners to receive a gold cup  This race was also a little unusual in that it was just the second Cup to be postponed, run on the following Saturday after torrential rain earlier in the week left the track a quagmire

1919, Artilleryman, the three-handle "loving cup" was introduced, much the same as the design of today   The trophy was made by Drummond’s Jewellers and James W  Steeth and Son   The tradition continues until this day, and although the Cup has for many decades remained a relatively plain design (perhaps would say, non-descript looking silver cup), the value of the trophy (ignoring, of course, prize money) has increased realistically only with that of the base metals involved    After displaying indifferent form in the autumn of the following year, Artilleryman died in Bacchus Marsh, later diagnosed as a result of cancer in the lymphatic gland - by a bizarre coincidence,one of his two part-owners, Mr  Alexander Murphy died in Melbourne the same day

* The 1867 Cup is perhaps most famous for having two starters named Tim Whiffler - to differentiate, they were known as "Sydney Tim" (the winner) and "Melbourne Tim" (fifth) and contemporary reports suggest (perhaps not surprisingly) that there were a number of disputes between bookmakers – then unlicensed – and punters as to which Tim had been backed

The name came from a verse penned Adam Lindsay Gordon which relates to a dream in which the Melbourne Cup winner was called Tim Whiffler  The trophy, along with the Queen's Plate won by the same horse, were offered at auction by Sotheby's in 2011, the estimate selling price between $600,000 and $800,000 - the Cup that year was valued at $175,000  

… They're neck and neck ; they're head and head ;

They're stroke for stroke in the running ;

The whalebone whistles, the steel is red  

No shirking as yet nor shunning  

One effort, Seagull, the blood you boast

Should struggle when nerves are strained ; —

With a rush on the post, by a neck at the most,

The verdict for Tim is gained  

Tim Whiffler wins! Is blood alone

The sine qua non for a flyer ? …"

Adam Lindsay Gordon, "Hippodromia" (aka "Whiffs from the Pipe In Five Parts")