Vow And Declare foiled the strong British and Irish challenge to win the Lexus Melbourne Cup in a tight finish at Flemington.
Trained by Danny O’Brien and ridden by Craig Williams, Vow And Declare dug deep in the two-mile prize to fend off the Joseph O’Brien-trained Master Of Reality and Frankie Dettori.
However, following interference in the closing stages, Dettori’s mount was demoted to fourth, with Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran, owned by Emirati Saeed bel Obaida, promoted to second and Aidan O’Brien’s Il Paradiso, who had his run significantly impeded, boosted to third.
Godolphin’s Cross Counter, the winner in 2018, finished in seventh.
Dettori raced prominently aboard Master Of Reality as his stablemate Twilight Payment set some of the early pace, with Vow And Declare also towards the fore, with Williams taking a position on the rail.
Master Of Reality was first to strike for home at the top of the straight and Dettori stole a couple of lengths advantage, but with a furlong and a half to go, Vow And Declare just edged in front.
However, Dettori’s mount found more for pressure, with Prince Of Arran charging down his outside and Il Paradiso trying to weave his way through between the winner and Master Of Reality.
The trio got tight for space in the shadow of the post, with Master Of Reality drifting across the track and squeezing the Wayne Lordan-ridden Il Paradiso squeezed for room, prompting a stewards’ inquiry and the eventual amended result.
Prince Of Arran finished third last year and Fellowes was delighted with his effort again, after a campaign that also saw him win the Geelong Cup last time.
He told www.racing.com: “I’m incredibly proud of the horse. To do what he has done two years in a row is a remarkable achievement and it’s a remarkable achievement for Tash (Eaton) who looks after him, for all the yard at home, who put in a huge amount of hard work and effort.
“For him to come out here and run as consistently as he does – I don’t think he’s finished outside the first three – is amazing.
“We were close today and I thought for a very brief second we had it. I think he does just hit the front – he’s run brilliant.
“We’ve just been invited to run in the Japan Cup and there’s also a race in Hong Kong, the Vase, that we’ve got in mind, so I just need to have a little think and decide where we go.
“To be honest, all roads lead back here next year – that’s where we want to come.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Know more about Sport360 Application
Godolphin’s defence of the G1 Melbourne Cup crown it carried off last year for the first time is on track and in strong order as Cross Counter tapers his preparation for Tuesday’s $8 million race.
Cross Counter rewarded 30 years of near misses and perseverance by Godolphin, taking out Australia’s greatest race with a last-to-first performance that carried him to a stunning victory.
If there is one thing that is close enough to certain about the same horse’s latest bid it is that he won’t be giving a start to all his 23 rivals when the race starts on Tuesday morning.
“I don’t think he has to be dropped all the way out like he was last year when there wasn’t much option but to go back from his wide gate,” said Chris Connett, the assistant to trainer Charlie Appleby.
Connett drew barrier five for Cross Counter who has risen six kilos in the Cup handicap since last year, which is another factor to be taken into account by rider William Buick.
“This year William has a few more options to be a bit more handy,” he said.
“It would probably be harder to carry that extra weight and do what he did, but William will make his mind up when they jump.”
The English-bred and trained four-year-old won’t be without northern hemisphere company on Tuesday.
Twenty of the 24 Cup runners were bred in either Britain, Ireland, Japan, France or the United States with another two having begun their lives in New Zealand, leaving only two locals to race for their country’s most coveted trophy.
One of those, Vow And Declare who finished second to Mer De Glace in the G1 Caulfield Cup is regarded as a live chance, although from barrier 21 he will need luck.
With the Caulfield Cup regarded as one of the most reliable guides to the Melbourne Cup, the Japanese runner Mer De Glace again has strong prospects, as do the English trained Raymond Tusk (Richard Hannon) and last year’s Cup third, Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes).
The strong Irish hand is made up entirely of horses trained by Aidan O’Brien and his son Joseph who saddle seven runners with the latter’s Il Paradiso given a strong chance of providing his trainer with a second Melbourne Cup.
Connett, however, is satisfied Cross Counter has come through the travel to Australia and his preparation here in excellent order.
“He’s awesome, he’s travelled down beautifully. He’s really bright, really keen, I can’t wait for Tuesday,” he said.
“His work’s been really solid and the horses he’s been working with are nice horses, we couldn’t be happier with the way he’s progressed.
“There’s slightly more pressure on him being the defending champ. But in another way there’s less pressure because he’s not had a week standing in the box like he did last year after he had a little mishap.”
“All the signs are there that he’s just about primed for the day.”
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is confident Old Persian will make his presence felt in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Saturday.
Winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, the four-year-old son of Dubawi has run only three times since – disappointing in the Coronation Cup at Epsom before finishing third in Germany and winning his second top-level prize in Canada last month.
He was the first of the European horses to clear quarantine and go out on the training track in California on Tuesday morning – and Appleby was on hand to supervise the light exercise.
He said: “The horse has shipped in well and this sort of thing is second nature to him as he came via Germany and Canada.
“It’s his first day out of the barn and he’s really on his toes and as fresh as paint – they are the signs I like to see.
“This was our target after Dubai. He ran a bit flat in the Coronation Cup, where he was showing the exertions of the Carnival, so I backed off him and gave him a break.
“I was pleased with his run in Germany, after which it was all systems go to head for the Northern Dancer at Woodbine. He was the class horse in that race and he showed it.
“I’ve always wanted to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf and he’s kept the dream alive.”
Six years on from saddling his very first Breeders’ Cup winner with Outstrip in the Juvenile Turf, Appleby has returned to America’s showpiece meeting with just one representative in 2019.
However, the on-course reporters were unsurprisingly keen to get his views on the brilliant Pinatubo – the undoubted star juvenile back in Europe after rounding off an unbeaten campaign with victory in the Dewhurst at Newmarket earlier this month.
“A lot has happened since my first winner at the Breeders’ Cup. Some people have asked me why I didn’t bring another two-year-old here this year, but I came to the conclusion there wasn’t anything suitable,” Appleby continued.
“It’s been a diverse season for us in terms of success. Pinatubo has been a big contributor with his six from six and I have to say his win in the Dewhurst was something very special – the way he handled the ground and galloped out when he met the rising ground.
“I hope, like the very good horses that come along now and again, the public will enjoy following him and we’re looking forward to his three-year-old campaign with real optimism.”