According to the Public Record Office of Victoria website, the secretary of the Victorian Racing Club, R.C. Bagot asked for it from the Chief Secretary’s Department:
At that time provisions existed to allow for the proclamation of
special bank holidays under the Bank Holidays Act of that year and for
special civil service holidays under the Civil Service Act. Although
these holidays were proclaimed by the Governor in Council and then
published in the Government Gazette, the task of preparing
documentation and making recommendations to the Governor was the
responsibility of the Chief Secretary’s Department.
On 30 October 1873, the Department prepared the necessary
documentation for the birthday of the Prince of Wales (9 November) to
be declared a special public holiday under the Civil Service Act.
William Henry Odgers, the Under Secretary of the Department annotated
the margin with “Also the “Cup” Day sug[gests]s CS [Chief Secretary]”.
This was duly approved by Chief Secretary James Goodall Francis. The
documentation for the proclamation of Cup Day (6 November) was also
added to the Bank Holiday proclamation for the Prince’s birthday. But
this did not please everyone. The file containing these arrangements
(VPRS 3991/P0, unit 710, file 73/C15451) also contains a letter of
complaint from the Society for Promoting Morality. It argued that the
proclamation of the public holiday may lead to young men “…contracting
the habit of “gambling”.” It is unclear whether this had any effect
but a Cup Day was not proclaimed the following year. By this time
Chief Secretary Francis had vacated his position and this might appear
to bear our Odgers’ annotation of the previous year that the holiday
was his idea.
The 1874 Cup meeting was the last one to be run on a Thursday. In
1875 it was moved to the second Tuesday of the month. This meant the
Cup was to be run on 9 November, the Prince of Wales birthday. As a
result civil service and bank holidays were gazetted.
So, did the Victorian Racing Club (VRC) move the day for the Cup
meeting in 1875 to a Tuesday in order to take advantage of a likely
public holiday? Or was it soliciting a public holiday irrespective of
the day? In this respect it is worth noting that in 1876, the
Secretary of the VRC, R.C. Bagot wrote to the Chief Secretary with the
following proposal: “Will you make Tuesday 7th a holiday instead of
Thursday 9th. Sir James informed me it was in your hand.” (VPRS
3992/P0, Unit 883, Item 76/K13038, File 76/K13126.) “Sir James” was
most likely Sir James McCulloch, the Premier at the time.
William Odgers subsequently annotated this item to record that the
Chief Secretary had “seen” Mr Bagot but did not disclose any further
detail. Subsequent to this meeting both of the 7th and 9th November
were Gazetted as Civil Service and Bank holidays. From then on the
precedent appears to have been set and a special public holiday for
the Cup was proclaimed annually. The extent of coverage of the act was
adjusted via these annual proclamations over time and legislation
specifically providing for a public holiday on the first Tuesday of
November was not enacted until the Public Holidays Act of 1993.