Vow And Declare narrowly won a thrilling finish to the Melbourne Cup at Flemington which also saw jockey Frankie Dettori and runner-up Master Of Reality demoted to fourth after a stewards' inquiry.
It was a first success in the Cup – Australia’s ‘race that stops a nation’ – for trainer Danny O’Brien and veteran jockey Craig Williams, with Vow And Declare managing to get up in the closing strides to win by a nose having been prominent throughout.
Dettori looked to have finally sealed his first victory in the two-mile race only for the jockey and Master Of Reality to be denied on the line, and then later demoted to fourth place following an inquiry by the stewards. They judged Dettori’s ride to have caused significant interference late on to impede the original fourth placed horse, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Il Paradiso. As a result of the inquiry, last year’s third Prince Of Arran, ridden by Michael Walker was promoted to second while Il Paradiso was moved to third.
Williams gave Vow And Declare a superb ride to win, taking advantage of a steady if somewhat cautious pace to always be in a prominent position. Passing the packed Flemington stands for the first time, they and Master Of Reality were the front pair with both afforded an easy time of things in front. The pace did slowly increase, and rounding the final bend the field was packing up in behind with a string of challengers spread out across the track trying to positon themselves for a late burst.
Dettori went for home on Master Of Reality, while Williams shot up the inside on Vow And Declare. Prince Of Arran also made his move, with Wayne Lordan coming from a long way back on Il Paradiso.
The duo were closing rapidly, and may well have gone even closer, but Dettori drifted across to the far rail, checking Lordan and Il Paradiso, leaving just enough room available for Vow And Declare to be first past the post.
Last year’s winner Cross Counter was unable to the feat of twelve months ago and finished eighth, a place behind Finche who was sent off favourite for Chris Waller and Kerrin McEvoy.
Raymond Tusk struggled with the relatively slow pace and finished 16th of 24, while this year’s Ebor winner Mustajeer only beat one runner home, Rostropovich, who finished last.
Speaking afterwards, winning jockey Williams said: “I feel very honoured. I grew up and watched these races and dreamt of these occasions.
“I really want to thank all of the people who came out today. Not only is this our greatest race that stops a nation, as you can see by the form book, today it is targeted by horses from all around the world and we did it today with an Australian horse.”
Trainer Danny O’Brien added: “It’s an amazing thing to happen. I really can’t believe it. I feel incredibly blessed to have had a horse good enough to be in it. He was ridden so beautifully by Craig.
“It doesn’t get much better than this. It was a race which wasn’t going to plan. To be fair to Craig he grabbed the bull by the horns early when nothing went forward. He ended up in front by the post. He’s a courageous horse, he’s got great stamina. I’m sure he was headed but wanted to get his head out on the line.”
Prince Of Arran’s trainer Charlie Fellowes was delighted with his horse who ran a great race for the second year running, saying, “What a horse! To do that two years in a row is remarkable – but this time I never felt that we were going to win it. I always felt Vow And Declare had us, although in the last five yards I realised we were a lot closer than I had thought.
“I’m not disappointed. I’m incredibly happy and I’m really proud. He has run so well and we came so close again. He is six years old and still improving. He is a laid-back horse who only ever does enough so hopefully we can have a few more years of racing with him.
“Providing the horse is okay, plan ‘A’ is to come straight back here again. The Melbourne Cup will be his number-one target. Next year I won’t run him in the Herbert Power and instead we’ll go via either the Caulfield Cup or the Geelong Cup before coming here.”