Chris Waller added Australia’s biggest race, the Lexus Melbourne Cup, to his illustrious CV with star mare Verry Elleegant sealing her tenth top-level success in the Flemington showpiece.
Hot favourite Incentivise finished second followed by the Andrew Balding-trained Spanish Mission in third and Floating Artist, formerly trained by Richard Hannon, in fourth.
Verry Elleegant, Australia’s horse of the year in 2020-21, finished strongly from stall 15 to finish seventh last year and had an even wider draw from stall 19 to overcome this time, but gained a more prominent position under James McDonald and cruised into contention on the turn in.
Incentivise hit the front on the approach to the home straight, but was soon headed by Verry Elleegant, last year’s Caulfield Cup winner, inside the final furlong and a half and the race was as good as over.
Waller, who watched the race at home with his family in Sydney, said: “When she crossed the line, I was very emotional. I really wanted to be there to share it with the staff and those who have worked so hard, but to watch it with my family, made it very, very special.
“It makes it pretty special to have another mare like this one. She’s so brave, so determined and so good.
“We’ve had some great wins and important wins and this is certainly one of them. It’s going to take a while to sink in.
“It’s the Melbourne Cup so it’s very special and just the way she won it. She dropped on them and showed her class.
“She was the class horse of the race and she showed that with a finish I’ll never forget.”
Spanish Mission ran a big race under Craig Williams, keeping on well for third, while last year’s winner Twilight Payment, the other European-trained runner, failed to get the lead early and finished 11th.
In the same Lloyd Williams silks, British-born jockey Rachel King finished 17th on Pondus on her first ride in the race.
Fortune was on the side of McDonald, similarly winning the race for the first time, as until Thursday he was booked to ride the Ismail Mohammed-trained Away He Goes, who was ruled out with a tendon injury.
Waller decided to run Verry Elleegant, who defeated Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes in March, on Saturday morning and the rest is history.
McDonald said: “This means everything and to do it on Verry Elleegant is extra special as she’s been along for the ride for so many seasons now.
“This has cemented her place right at the top with those real good horses because what she’s done over varying trips over the years is just incredible.
“I love her to bits and she’s been so good to me. We can safely say she’s a champion now. I’ve always dreamed of winning the Melbourne Cup, but never thought I would win one as it’s so hard to do it.
“I was booked for Away He Goes and sadly he went amiss, but when one door closes another one opens.
“I’m so lucky to be in Chris’s team and he went through his processes before deciding to run her – that’s why he’s as good as he is. We’ve had a lot of luck together and it helps when you get horses like this.”
Verry Elleegant became the 17th filly or mare to win the race and the first to finish in the top three since Makybe Diva struck in 2005. She completed a rare one-two for part-owner Brae Sokolski, who has shares in the winner and Incentivise, one of the shortest-priced favourites in the race’s 160-year history.
Sokolski, whose emotions got the better of him when breaking Covid protocols to enter the winner’s enclosure, said: “I’m so apologetic about breaking the Covid protocols but I just wanted to be with the mare and also with Incentivise, so the adrenalin got the better of me. But at these moments, they’re once in a lifetime. It’s extraordinary and the most humbling moment of my life.
“Incentivise was the hype horse and we did think he would win, but we still had so much faith in Verry Elleegant and at the 300-metre mark when I saw those colours on the outside, I knew the race was over.
“To do what she has done takes her to the upper echelons of the pantheon of Australia’s greatest racehorses and she’s not out of place among the greatest horses we’ve seen.
“It’s a dream come true having a runner, let alone a winner, let alone the Quinella [forecast]. It’s a special day and a privilege.”
Tralee Rose, who finished ninth, will stay overnight at Werribee Vet Hospital after being struck into, but the mare sustained a laceration to a hind leg rather than any tendon damage. The other 22 runners were reported to have come through the race unscathed.
Melbourne Cup finishing positions
1 Verry Elleegant
3 Spanish Mission
4 Floating Artist
5 The Chosen One
6 Grand Promenade
9 Tralee Rose
10 She’s Ideel
11 Twilight Payment
12 Miami Bound
13 Great House
14 Sir Lucan
15 Explosive Jack
16 Master of Wine
19 Knights Order
21 Port Guillaume
22 Johnny Get Angry
23 Ocean Billy
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fonte : RacingPost