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National Museum of Australia acquires rare gold Adelaide horseracing trophy

26 October 2016

Adelaide Hunt Club Cup one of a few surviving trophies of its kind

A rare 1881 solid gold horseracing trophy from the prestigious Adelaide Hunt Club has been acquired by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Adelaide Hunt Club Cup
Adelaide Hunt Club Cup. Photo: Danny Kneebone, Sotheby’s Australia

The 18ct gold Adelaide Hunt Club Cup was made by esteemed colonial gold and silversmith, Henry Steiner. It is one of only 16 gold presentation cups made in Australia in the nineteenth century known to be in existence – of which just three are from South Australia.

Originally called The Adelaide Hounds, the Adelaide Hunt Club was established in 1840. The Adelaide Hunt Club Cup was a prestigious annual steeplechase race, second only to the Adelaide Cup. The annual steeplechase race meeting was one of the highlights of the social calendar for South Australian colonial gentry.

‘We are delighted to acquire such a rare gold horseracing trophy which showcases both the traditionally English pastimes of colonial Adelaide and the beautiful work of Mr Steiner, who was one of the most important gold and silversmiths in the country at that time,’ said National Museum curator, Catriona Donnelly.

‘Many gold cups of this era were melted down, so it is wonderful to add this trophy to the National Museum‘s collection, for all Australians to enjoy,’ said Ms Donnelly.

The National Museum acquired the neoclassical cup at the Sotheby‘s Australia Fine Asian, Australian and European Arts & Design auction.

The 30-centimetre tall Adelaide Hunt Club Cup features an elongated scroll handle, an inverted spout and a collared neck with a band of acanthus leaves above a tapered body.

The cup joins other important horse racing trophies in the National Museum's collection, including the 1866 Melbourne Cup (the oldest intact Melbourne Cup) and the 1867 and 1934 Melbourne cups.

The annual steeplechase meeting of the Adelaide Hunt Club in 1881 was held at Morphettville racecourse on Saturday 1 October. The Adelaide Hunt Club Cup was one of six steeplechase races held on the day.

The 1881 winning horse, ‘Roebuck', was ridden by Mr T. Baker.

The Adelaide Hunt Club Cup was presented to the owners – the Robertson Brothers – by the Governor, Sir Anthony Musgrave KCMG.

The Robertson brothers were pioneer cattle, sheep and horse breeders in South Australia.

Robert Barr Smith was president of the Adelaide Hunt Club and he donated the gold cup as a prize for the race.

For more information please contact Tracy Sutherland, (02) 6208 5338 / 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au