Cross Counter becomes first English horse to win Melbourne Cup
Bad day for Aidan O’Brien as Cliffsofmoher was put down while Rostropovich came fifth
Jockey Kerrin McEvoy riding horse Cross Counter celebrates after winning the annual Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Photo: Albert Perez/AAP
After decades of trying, finally England has secured its first success in the €4.6m Melbourne Cup – and it would seem it won’t be long before they achieve another. As the all conquering Godolphin organisation ended their 30-year quest to win the Cup, Cross Counter became the first English race horse to win Australia’s most iconic sporting event.
The great grandmother of Cross Counter – who gathered in French stayer Marmelo in the closing stages to win at Flemington, while A Prince of Arran was third – was bought as a yearling in 1988 and now 30 years later the stable’s foresight in purchasing that family has reaped rich rewards.
But on a day of celebration for the winners, the race was again marred by the death of one of the runners, The Cliffsofmoher, who pulled up within the first 600m with a fractured right shoulder. The Aidan O’Brien-trained horse could not be saved and was euthanised.
Twenty six years ago Irish stayer Vintage Crop won the Melbourne Cup and the internationalisation of the race has continued unabated since, with Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum finally taking home the Cup.
“I have got to say that the Melbourne Cup has been very, very kind to me,” the winning jockey, Kerrin McEvoy, said. “It is my third win, but you never get blasé. But I know personally because I have ridden for the Sheikh during my years and I know what they put into it.
“No stone is unturned. They are meticulous and to think I was the jockey that could break the drought is fantastic.”
And for trainer, Charlie Appleby, the joy and pride could be seen as he skipped around the mounting yard declaring his delight to the 90,000 strong Flemington crowd.
“You can’t realise the delight of winning this race,” he said. “It is known around the world as a seriously great race and to think we can bring it home to England is incredible. We have been trying very hard, but finally we have cracked it.”
Perhaps the indifferent track conditions may have been the downfall of the favourite, Yucatan. However, while another English-trained stayer, A Prince of Arran, finished second, nothing could be taken away from the winner as he collided with another horse with 600 metres to go and would have been extremely unlucky had he not been victorious.
The Caulfield Cup winner, Best Solution, lost all chance to win. He bombed the start by eight lengths and was then never a factor in the race.
It has taken many horses of all shapes and sizes owned by Sheikh Mohammed to win a Melbourne Cup and the outpouring of emotion at Flemmington was obvious.
“Of course, it is fantastic to win a Melbourne Cup, but how much better it is to win it for the Sheikh. He has waited so long and tried so hard, this is magnificent,” McEvoy said.
And Appleby was just as delighted as it sunk in that he had finally delivered for the world’s most powerful racing organisation.
“I am just so delighted. I can’t tell you how good it feels. He is a wonderful young horse,” he said.
McEvoy, who is now a three-times winner of the Melbourne Cup, and his sister-in-law, Michelle Payne, who is also a former winner, said he was deeply concerned that he got back too far on the four-year-old.
The 158th running of the famous race took a turn for the worse just three hours before the jump when Flemington was lashed by a severe storm that saturated the track.
Instead of the usual pregnant nuns and university students carrying a corpse trying to bring alcohol in the track, race goers searched for whatever shelter they could find. Thousands ran from the famous Flemington carparks, while the trains from the city to the course slowed to a crawl.
The rain, which took the track into a heavy reading, leaving punters scratching their heads in the last few minutes leading up to the race that stops a nation. – Guardian service