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Melbourne Cup Prize Money

The Melbourne Cup is one of the world's richest horse races. The first-ever race was held in 1861, and was won by the horse Archer. There is dispute about the winning prize for this first race, and considering how long ago it was that is not surprising. A search online has many references to the winning amount being £170 with a gold watch thrown in, but other sources have it as £710, which suggests that there is a typo somewhere that other sites have replicated. Actually, reputable sources indicate that the prize was £930.

Was the prize £930?

The actual amount won may not be £710 or £170. In Bell's Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle, the most informed racing source of its day, it is stated several times that the prize amount was £930, which included the £200 contributed by the Victoria Turf Club (as quoted in a book by racing historian Andrew Leemon). Also, in an article from The Register (Adelaide, SA) published on Tuesday 7 November 1916, page 9 (excerpt show below), has listed the winning stake for the first Melbourne Cup as £930, with the winner's share as £910. (see the prize money article for the full list).

Archer Prize Money ListWas it £200?

Just to confuse things, an article published in 2008 at (link no longer working), it quoted the conditions for the race - "a sweepstakes of 20 sovereigns, 10 sovereigns forfeit or 5 sovereigns if declared, with 200 sovereigns added money". Another article from 1933 (The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 2 Nov 1933, p14) mentions the added money was £200.

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