Packed grandstand at the 1881 Melbourne Cup

The finish for the Melbourne Cup, 1881

Odds are that you’ll spend some time in front of a computer screen or smart device this Cup Day. Why not take a punt and explore our wealth of Melbourne Cup and horse racing resources online.

Copyright-free Melbourne Cup images 

Dive into our digital image pool and browse nearly 200 images relating to the Melbourne Cup from our collections. These images are free of copyright restrictions and available for you to reuse, remix and repurpose!

Black and white photo of horses and jockeys at racecourse

Racehorses parading on racetrack at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne Cup Day

Melbourne Cup 150th anniversary: image gallery

Our online picture gallery features an eclectic range of pictures to celebrate the Cup’s 150th anniversary in 2011 – from the serious business of winning, to frivolity in the car park.

Two women, both wearing red straw hats, woman on left holding a drinking glass, cars parked behind them, most with boots open, beach umbrellas and small gatherings of people.

Two unidentified women kicking up their heels in carpark at racecourse © Rennie Ellis

Melbourne Cup Research Guide

Our research guide to Horse racing and the Melbourne Cup is the ultimate gateway to the Library’s Melbourne Cup collections, and required reading for horse racing enthusiasts. Learn how to find information on everything from newspaper archives to international stud books, weight odds to race winners, and much more.

Oil painting of Wakeful (thoroughbred) and his jockey

Wakeful, Champion Mare of Australia. Oil painting by Frederick Woodhouse Jr, 1910

Racy language

Many unique and colourful terms are used in relation to thoroughbred horse racing. Some, like ‘also ran’ and ‘odds on’, have become part of our day-to-day speech. Many of these terms are defined in dictionaries such as the Macquarie or the Oxford, both of which can be accessed online by Victorian Library members.

You can also read librarian Tim Hogan’s entertaining blog post on the genesis of the popular expression ‘Daylight second’.

Printed advert for railway tickets c1960s

Val Morgan ad for Cup Day railway tickets

The Cup in fiction

The Melbourne Cup has been a rich source for creative writers. To find Australian novels and poems concerned with the Cup you could try a keyword search for ‘Melbourne Cup’ in the AustLit database. This online resource is available for free to Victorian Library members.

Phar Lap with points marked on image


The Library holds many images relevant to the Cup, including paintings, photographs and illustrations. Try a search on our catalogue: choose ‘Pictures & photographs’ from the drop-down menu in the search box, and enter some keywords or an exact phrase, such as for the great horse ‘Carbine’. Use the options on the left-hand side of the screen to narrow the results.

black and white engraving of horses and their jockeys milling on the race course

Going down to the start for the Cup, wood engraving, 1857

Illustrated newspapers

There were a number of illustrated newspapers published in Melbourne in the latter part of the 19th century. Many of the illustrations were wood engravings that have since been digitised. You can search for newspaper illustrations of the Melbourne Cup in the Library catalogue. Select ‘Pictures & photographs’ from the drop-down menu in the search box. Then, enter the term ‘illustrated newspaper file melbourne cup’ in the search box to see the results.

Group of revellers at Melbourne Cup

Relaxing after lunch at the Melbourne Cup © Rennie Ellis

Library hours on Cup Day

The Library will be open until 6pm on the Melbourne Cup Day public holiday, Tuesday 3 November.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Patricia A Taylor

    My father, State Library Researcher, Philip V L Garrett, found a painting of an early Melbourne Cup, lost in the library’s archives, where the people depicted had paid to be painted into the picture. It hung in the Member’s Bar for a long time. It was a large painting in an ornamental frame. Next to it on the wall was a copper plate acknowledging Dad’s involvement in the discovery. Does anyone know what became of it?
    In anticipation,
    Patricia Taylor (nee Garrett)

    • Thanks for your question Patricia.
      I have logged this with our Ask a librarian service and a staff member will be in touch shortly,

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