Rex Reid’s Melbourne Cup was the first work to be commissioned by The Australian Ballet and premiered on 16 November 1962. Based on the inaugural running of the legendary horse race in 1861, the inclusion of Melbourne Cup in the company’s debut season fulfilled Peggy van Praagh’s wish to present new repertoire featuring Australian themes. The premiere performance featured Kathleen Gorham as Archer, Karl Welander as Archer’s Jockey, Leonie Leahy as the Debutante and Garth Welch as the Jackaroo.
The set and costumes were designed by Ann Church and featured ballerina “horses” in tutus with flowing headdresses. A selection of the original costumes were donated to Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection by The Australian Ballet in 1998 . You can see photos of the original production on The Australian Ballet’s website.