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National Museum acquires racing treasure

6 DECEMBER, 2010

One of Australia's earliest sporting trophies has been added to the collection of the National Museum of Australia.

The Junius Cup, a handsome silver trophy awarded at the Parramatta races in October 1827, was commissioned by Andrew Nash, a convict turned entrepreneur, and made in Sydney by silversmith Alexander Dick. It was awarded to Robert Fitzgerald, whose horse 'Creeper' won the race.

The National Museum of Australia acquired the Junius Cup at auction for $161,000, including the auction house commission of $23,000.

"Objects relating to the early history of Parramatta are hard to find and this is a particularly important piece of Australian decorative art. The Junius Cup reminds us that even in the harsh circumstances of the early colony both the convicts and the free settlers loved horse racing and a punt," said Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia.

From 1825-27 Andrew Nash owned Junius, a champion racehorse which won the Brisbane Cup and the Turf Club Plate before being retired to stud. In 1827, Nash pledged to provide a prize for one of the winners of the Parramatta races – a trophy to the value of ₤40 to be called Junius's Cup.

In 1795 James Lara, proprietor of the Freemasons Inn in Parramatta, organised what were probably the first unofficial races in the colony. Lara organised for the length of George Street, Parramatta, to be used as 'straight six' race track of six furlongs with the finishing post, handily enough, outside his hotel.

The Junius Cup will eventually go on display in the National Museum of Australia's Landmarks gallery which will open in mid-2011.

For interviews, images and more information please contact Dennis Grant on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481; Caroline Vero on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au