Melbourne Cup 2021: the history of the prize money

Last Updated 5 May 2021 | Commercial content | 18+

Commercial content | T&C apply | Please play responsibly | 18+

The Melbourne Cup was first to run in 1861. It is known as the race that stops a nation. The Melbourne Cup is the most famous race in Australia. Traditionally, the race takes place at 3 pm local time on the first Tuesday in November. The race takes place at Flemington Racecourse in Victoria. In keeping with the status of the race, the Melbourne Cup 2021 offers an amazing prize fund.

Melbourne Cup Early Days

When the Melbourne Cup was first to run in 1861, it was one of the richest races in Australia. In fact, the race was a Cup race in name only because the winning owners did not receive a Cup. In the early years, the prizes included a gold watch and a share of a cash purse.  The successful connections first received a cup in 1865. The trophy was given the title of the Flemington Hunt Club Cup. 

The importance of the race in the early days and the prize fund was reflected in the fact that in 1877 race day was declared a full day holiday. The Melbourne Cup was first to run on the first Tuesday in November in 1975.  Historical records indicate that the first race in 1861 was worth £710 which was paid if the form of gold sovereigns. The prize also included a gold watch for the winning owner.

Melbourne Cup Prize MoneyEditorial credit: Boris15 /

Melbourne Cup Prize Money Growth

The Melbourne Cup is a handicap run over two miles and is now a highly important contest. The prizes for the first winner in 1861 made the race one of the richest in Australia. The prize fund steadily grew and kept up with the other main races in Australia. However, other matters in history affected the wealth of the race. 

The Melbourne Cup was run during World War 2. However, the prizes were reduced to such an extent that the winning owner received £200 in the form of war bonds.  

There have been several significant milestones in the history of the Melbourne Cup and the financial rewards for winning the race.  The 1985 Melbourne Cup was the first race in Australia to offer 1 Australian dollar in prize money. At the start of the current century, the total prize fund had increased to €4 million AUD.  The Melbourne Cup trophy was changed from a 9-carat gold item to one with 18-carats. The race became the richest handicap in the world.

Melbourne Cup 2021 Prize Money

The Melbourne Cup 2020 is the second richest race in Australia after the Everest. The prize fund has grown to over €8 million AUD. The winning and placed horse now share in a prize fund that has doubled over the last 19 years. There has been a global increase in prize money for elite races. 

Everest is the richest turf race in the world and the prize fund in 2020 was 13 million AUD. The first million pounds Ebor was run at York in 2020 and it is the most valuable Flat handicap in Europe. 

In addition to the prize money, the Melbourne Cup 2020 also offers trophies worth 250,000 AUD. The first 12 horses receive prize money and the winner’s connections are given a share of 4.4 AUD.  The horse that finishes in 12th place earns 160,000 AUD for the connections. The prize distribution is 85% to the owner, 10% to the trainer and 5% to the jockey.

The Melbourne Cup 2021 offers a 500,000 AUD for any horse that wins the race and the Irish St Leger in the previous September.  The Melbourne Cup 2021 has maintained its prize money status for a handicap.  

+18 Please play responsibly gamblinghelponline