Consider the first four home this year — their diverse profiles are fascinating.
German-bred winner Almandin had run only 11 times previously, yet had finished second, beaten three lengths, to a French champion in Solow, in a small race over 2,000m at Longchamp in 2014.
The same year, Almandin had beaten Protectionist, a subsequent Melbourne Cup winner, when winning a G2, over 2,200m at Baden Baden. His new owner, Australian Lloyd Williams, brought him to Melbourne, but the Monsun gelding suffered a tendon injury and did not run for two years.
Coming into Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, he had not had a public outing since winning the G3 Bart Cummings Stakes at Flemington on Oct 2 — unusual for a locally-trained horse. Because of his injury, he had been sparingly raced.
Runner-up Heartbreak City had been bought out of a claimer at Deauville in France in 2013 by his current trainer Tony Martin as a dual-purpose horse. It is very common for older horses in Ireland to run both over jumps and on the Flat.
It proved an astute purchase by Martin as Heartbreak City went on to win the showcase Galway Hurdle, and followed up with a win in Europe’s richest staying handicap, the Ebor at York.
Although French-bred, Heartbreak City is a son of Lando, a German champion. He had won six of his 22 starts before Tuesday.
Almandin found that little bit extra to provide both jockey Kerrin McEvoy and trainer Robert Hickmott with a second taste of Melbourne Cup glory.
Joint-owner Lloyd Williams is a ubiquitous presence upon the winner’s podium and was claiming a fifth victory in the so-called “race that stops a nation”.
Godolphin were responsible for five runners in their pursuit to win the Melbourne Cup, with the Hartnell third – some four and a quarter lengths away from the main protagonists – and Charlie Appleby’s Qewy a staying-on fourth.
Almandin’s Emirates Melbourne Cup victory proves just how difficult it is to win the race that stops the nation. You have to have the right horse and an element of luck comes into this on race day too.
Godolphin’s brightest hope Hartnell was absolutely brilliant, finishing third behind Heartbreak City. The problem was he’s had a really strong campaign – his last run behind Winix was superb – but I think he didn’t stay home for the last few furlongs. This race is two miles and he needs something shorter as he’s a class act over a shorter distance.
Hartnell jockey James MacDonald expressed some frustration after the race and you can understand why. You’re on the favourite, you think you have a huge chance and James– as one of the brightest young jockeys – was desperate to win.
It’s a huge deal. It’s like losing a World Cup final. If you don’t win, you feel dejected. Second or third is not good enough for these guys. They want to win.
The Melbourne Cup is one of Australia’s great sporting events with over 100,000 spectators turning out at Flemington. It’s as big as it gets for racing fans and it means everything to them.
It may not be a grade one race but it has so much history stretching back 156 years. That’s why it’s important for people to win and that’s why James MacDonald is disappointed that he didn’t get his name on the roll of honour.
I was speaking to John Ferguson, CEO and Race Manager for Godolphin, after the race and he said Oceanographer was unable to back up his stunning run on Saturday, but it was always going to be difficult.
Qewy was also superb, and Saeed Bin Suroor’s other two horses – Beautiful Romance and Secret Number – simply weren’t good enough to keep up with the pack.
Hartnell lost nothing in defeat. The top two went so far clear but he did a great job but didn’t have the stamina – this is what the race is all about.