The Melbourne Cup is an Australian icon, not just the event, but the actual cup itself.
When I was looking for an article about it and found this picture of the cup I realized how instantly recognizable it is.
Traditionally, the cup is made of 34 pieces of gold, hand beaten over 200 hours by Hardy Brothers Jewellers. (thanks, melbournecup.com)
The Melbourne Cup was first run in 1861 and ornate trophies were awarded on a more or less random basis with years when nothing was awarded at all. The cup was first produced in this style in 1919 and is the same as the one the owner of the winning horse will receive in 2011. It is currently valued at $125,000. The trainer, jockey, strapper and breeder will also recieve smaller scale copies.