Vow And Declare triumphs in dramatic Melbourne Cup

The international raiders almost pulled off another famous victory in the £4.25 million Lexus Melbourne Cup, but Prince Of Arran (second), Il Paradiso (third) and Master Of Reality (fourth) were ultimately denied by Vow And Declare – a four-year-old chestnut gelding bred, trained and owned by Australian interests.  

Having finished second in the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup, Vow And Declare went one better on a sun-soaked day at Flemington to deliver a first Melbourne Cup win for one of Australia’s leading jockeys, Craig Williams, who coveted the trophy above all others.  

Master Of Reality, owned by six-time Melbourne Cup winner Lloyd Williams and trained by Joseph O’Brien, hit the front in the home straight and looked to have ended Dettori’s Melbourne Cup hoodoo, only for the Danny O’Brien-trained Vow And Declare to surge past him on the inside rails and win by a head.  

In a dramatic postscript, Master Of Reality was demoted to fourth place after Dettori’s mount was deemed to have caused interference to Aidan O’Brien’s galloper Il Paradiso, who flashed home late under Wayne Lordan and was promoted to third place after the protest was upheld.    

Last year’s placegetter Prince Of Arran loomed large in the home straight and appeared poised to go two places better than 12 months ago, but ultimately his trainer Charlie Fellowes had to settle for second – a result which delivered a $1.1 million (approximately £590,000) payday for his connections.        

Fellowes said: “I’m remarkably proud of this horse, to do what he’s done two years in a row is an incredible achievement. I don’t think he’s finished outside the top three in six races in Australia now, which is an amazing record.  

“For a brief second I thought he was going to win, but it wasn’t to be. We’ll enjoy tonight, then regroup and plot a path to next year’s Melbourne Cup.”  

Prince Of Arran’s jockey, Michael Walker, said: “Charlie and the team have done an amazing job with this horse. I love the horse and I just wanted to win it for him and the team. I feel like I’ve let them down a bit, but once the dust has settled I’m sure I’ll look back with a bit of pride.”  

For Dettori, the quest to claim the elusive prize continues, having now tried and failed to win the ‘race that stops a nation’ for a 17th time. It was a third runner-up finish for the flamboyant Italian, after he narrowly missed out on both Central Park (1999) and Willie Mullins’ Max Dynamite (2015).

“I feel like crying,” was his only comment in the immediate aftermath of the 159th edition of the two-mile contest.  

“I’m shattered for Frankie, that was his race,” said part-owner Nick Willams.   “He gave our horse every chance, and nothing would have been better to have won the race with him in the saddle.”  

“I’m more gutted for Frankie than I am for myself,” added Joseph O’Brien.   “I’ll be back next year, but I don’t know if Frankie is ever going to win this race.”  

Of the other Europeans, defending champion Cross Counter ran a creditable race to finish in eighth place for his trainer, Charlie Appleby.  

His pilot William Buick was satisfied with the performance, saying: “I thought he ran a huge race, but he was slowly away and never really had the chance to go at them.”

Mer De Glace ultimately fell short in his bid to complete a clean sweep of the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival’s major races, as the Caulfield Cup winner could only manage sixth place under jockey Damian Lane.  

Further down the field, Magic Wand (Aidan O’Brien / Ryan Moore) finished 10th; Twilight Payment (Joseph O’Brien / Hugh Bowman) came 11tth; Hunting Horn (Aidan O’Brien / Seamie Heffernan) was 15th; Raymond Tusk (Richard Hannon / Jamie Spencer) came 16th; Latrobe (Joseph O’Brien / James McDonald) 18th; and Downdraft (Joseph O’Brien / John Allen) finished 22nd of the 24 runners.

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