Horse racing and the Melbourne Cup

A guide to research and history of the Melbourne Cup and horseracing

Race books

Race books are sold at race meetings. They list the horses nominated for each race and include jockeys, trainers, owners and the colours the horse will wear and the weight it will carry. Sometimes there will be changes of jockeys, or jockeys won't have been nominated prior to the publication of the race book. 

Race books are published by racing clubs that hold races at particular race courses. The Victoria Racing Club runs race meetings at Flemington Race Course and publishes race books for these meetings. These include race books for the Melbourne Cup.

The Library has extensive, but not complete, holdings of race books for various racing clubs.


The breeding industry in Australia is a multi-million dollar concern and provides employment for a large number of people.

Merriwee, winner of the Melbourne Cup 1899

In recent years several Australian racehorses have won significant races overseas. Three of them, the stallions Choisir, Elvstroem  and Starcraft,  have returned to Australia to stand at stud. Currently the Australian sprinter Starspangled Banner has been winning group races in England.

There has always been much interest in the breeding of the thoroughbred. Since the win of Vintage Crop in 1993, the Cup has more of an international flavour. Australian stallions also are producing successful horses.

The Library has historical resources as well as Australasian and international stud books to assist anyone interested in researching the pedigree of a particular racehorse.


Maurice Cavanough's book The Melbourne Cup 1861-2000 includes full results (from first to last) for the race between those years. Online, the commercial site includes the placegetters together with weights odds and connections of the winner for every Melbourne Cup.

Images of the finish

In 1884, as part of a very detailed account of the race, the Argus included an illustration showing the positioning of leading runners at various parts of the race.

These illustrations were included each year from then until 1915.

In 1916 they were replaced by a photograph of the finish of race. That year the Cup was postponed until Saturday 11 November after bad weather effected the track.  See the Newspapers box on the 'Resources' page for more on using newspapers for researching the Cup.

The Library also holds illustrations and photos of the finish of the Cup.  Try a simple keyword search like finish Melbourne Cup .

Melbourne Cup finish 1905

Melbourne Cup H2009.85/1

Form guides

Form guides provide information and assessments on horses running in upcoming race meetings.

Guides include details of the horse's form leading up to its' next race, including the weight carried, jockey, placing and condition of the track for each race listed.

Daily newspapers traditionally carry form guides for meetings the same day or following day.

There are also specialist publications, although increasingly this information is provided on the internet, often for a fee.

Specialist form guide publications:

  • Best bets
    • our Library holds most issues form 1972 to current
  • Winning post
    • our Library holds the first issue and then issues from 2000 to current
  • Sportsman
    • Sydney publication, our Library holds from September 1996.
    • no longer received in print but receive microfilm copies several months after publication.

Finish 1886 Cup mp005517

From the grandstand Illustrated Australian News,

Arsenal wins the 1886 Melbourne Cup

Victorian Racing Calendar

The Victorian Racing Calendar contains a variety of useful information. It includes:

  • racing fixtures
  • lists of jockeys
  • licensed trainers
  • permits to train,
  • registration and leases
  • race results.
  • licensed farriers
  • registered bookmakers
  • registered colours

It was published monthly and for most of the twentieth century there is an index by name of horse to the results page.