News

It’s Kyabram’s Melbourne Cup too

By Alex Mitchell

KYABRAM born and raised trainer Danny O'Brien has fended off the world's best horses to claim Australia's greatest race.

While high-priced thoroughbreds from across the globe flew to Melbourne for the $8 million Melbourne Cup, the Goulburn Valley product-trained Vow And Declare saw off its more high profile rivals to win the illustrious race, the first Australian winner in 10 years.

An exceptional ride from jockey Craig Williams made the victory possible; unable to tuck in early, Williams pushed forward five horses wide but eventually tucked in on the fence one length back from the race leader, putting the four-year-old gelding in the box seat.

When the horses turned for home, Vow And Declare unleashed a gutsy sprint down the straight and had to hang on for dear life, gritting its teeth to beat Joseph O'Brien's Master Of Reality by a nose, although Charlie Fellowes' Prince Of Arran was related promoted to second via protest.

O'Brien, who grew up on a Kyabram property which bred and reared racehorses, has now completed the spring racing carnival's holy trinity, adding the Melbourne Cup to his previous Caulfield Cup (2007, Master O'Reilly) and Cox Plate (2013, Shamus Award) titles.

"It's an amazingly special thing to happen, I really can't believe it," he told Channel 10.

"I feel incredibly blessed to have a horse good enough to be in it, and for him to be ridden so beautifully by Craig.

"The last 100m, he just wouldn't give in, he wouldn't give in, he put his head out on the line and now we've won the Melbourne Cup."

O'Brien said he had left the tactical decisions to Williams, but admitted he had his doubts when Vow And Declare pushed so far forward.

"It was a race which wasn't going to plan, but to be fair to Craig, he grabbed the bull by the horns early when nothing else went forward," he told Racing.com.

"He ended up in front past the winning post, and that's probably been the winning move.

"Inside the 100, I thought 'you've led past the post the first time, three are on you know'. I was hoping he would hang on for a place to be honest.

"But he's a courageous horse with great stamina, I'm sure he was headed and he just found some more to get his head out on the line."

The victory completed a tumultuous period for O'Brien in which he and fellow trainer Mark Kavanagh had spent more than three years clearing their names against allegations of administering cobalt to horses.

After initially being banned from training, O'Brien eventually was found by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have had no knowledge of the administration of cobalt - the Kyabram product said he was just glad to get back to racing.

"I think everyone in the racing game long enough has their ups and downs," he said.

"The main thing is you just keep persisting and keep working, and sometimes you have a bit of luck.

"I'm very lucky; my parents are here, my in-laws are here watching at home, I've got my kids here. It's a pretty special moment, and I just feel really lucky that I'm getting to experience it."

Vow And Declare paid $11.70 for the win and $3.90 for the place.

Alternatively, it was a disappointing day for the Euroa-based Lindsay Park Racing stable, with highly-fancied four-year-old Constantinople running an underwhelming 13th.

Constantinople appeared close enough to win the race as the horses turned for home but did not have anything left in the tank.

The  David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig training partnership had two other runners; Neufbosc was never in the race and finished 21st, while Rostropovich finished last more than 40 lengths off the winner.

Rostropovich was taken to the Werribee Equine Clinic post-race with a suspected cracked pelvis.

The stable's Cup Day had got the perfect start, with first-starter Aryaaf bolting home to win the Group Three Ottawa Stakes.

The two-year-old settled sixth and flew home down the outside rail, hitting the front inside the final 100m and streaking away to win by nearly two lengths.

"(It was a) really good start, and it was a really impressive winner considering she did so much wrong," Hayes said.

"But I know she'll run 1200m because she did today.

"It's just nice to get winners on these big days - I call them show-off days, you really want to get a nice winner and we've got one in the bag which is good."

The team narrowly missed another winner, with $26-shot Creedence running second in the BM96 Macca's Run.

Creedence looked a chance late in the run but was eventually no match for $1.50 favourite Shared Ambition, which strode away late to win by 1.3 lengths.