150th Melbourne Cup

02 November, 2010

1888 Melbourne Cup
The 1888 Melbourne Cup, known as the Centennial Cup. Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift, on loan from the National Gallery of Australia.
Source: Museum Victoria

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Melbourne Cup, the prize trophy from 1888 is on display beside Phar Lap's hide and skeleton at Melbourne Museum.

Featuring three horses cast in silver on a silver-plated base this trophy was once known as the Centennial Cup, celebrating 100 years of British settlement. Prior to the race the Cup was displayed at the Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building, where it was seen by visitors from around the world. 

The first Melbourne Cup trophy was presented in 1865. Each year (except in the depression of 1894-98) a trophy was ordered, usually from England, by the Victorian Racing Club. Since 1914 they have been made in Australia.

The 1888 winner, Mentor, was owned by Mr Donald S Wallace. The jockey Mick O’Brien (wearing black with white sleeves and scarlet cap) always had the horse in a winning position. Tumultuous cheering broke out as Mentor ran home in 3 minutes 30 ¾ seconds. Wallace received the trophy and O’Brien a gold mounted whip, which has become the traditional gift to the winning jockey.

The 1888 Melbourne Cup was made in Birmingham in 1887 and bears the maker's mark of Maker’s mark of Frederick Elkington. It is engraved with:

Won by D S Wallace’s B C Mentor
Ridden by Michael O’Brien
Trained by W S Hickenbotham

The cup is on loan from the National Gallery of Australia, where it is part of the Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Gift. It will be on display until 21 November. 

The Phar Lap Collection is also this month's featured theme on Collections Online. Museum Victoria holds over 350 items of racing equipment and memorabilia relating to Phar Lap.

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