For the first time since Shocking’s 2009 Melbourne Cup win, an Australian bred, trained and owned horse has won our nation’s biggest race with Vow And Declare saluting for the locals in the 2019 Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.
The number of overseas runners has continued to grow over the last decade – twelve of this year’s starters were currently trained overseas, with a handful more ex-imports now with Australian stables.
After a Spring that firstly saw the Caulfield Cup head to Japan with Mer De Glace and his compatriot Lys Gracieux dominating the Cox Plate with a brilliant turn-of-foot, it looked very likely that the trio of Melbourne’s Spring features were all heading offshore.
Enter local Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien and four-year old gelding Vow And Declare. The lightly raced son of Declaration Of War was passed in at the sales after the reserve price of $70,000 was not reached. Instead, it was kept in ownership by the breeder Paul Lanskey and sent to O’Brien.
The chestnut was un-raced as a 2YO and debuted at Cranbourne as a 40/1 chance in late August 2018. He won his maiden at the iconic Warrnambool track in October, but it was at his next start that he got his first taste of Cup week at Flemington, winning a Listed 1800m race on Oaks day, the third of the four-day carnival.
He raced through the Autumn and into the Brisbane winter, culminating in a 3000m Tatts Cup win at Eagle Farm. The jockey that day was Glen Boss. He was spruiking to the media that the horse would be ready for the two miles on the first Tuesday in November as a four-year old.
Sent to the paddock with the Melbourne Cup as the goal, he just missed the placings in the Coolmore resuming before an eye-catching second in the Caulfield Cup that put him right on target. He had been ridden by no less than six different jockeys in his twelve career starts, but it was Craig Williams that got the ride after the praise he gave the horse following the brilliant runner-up finish at Caulfield.
He started the race as the fourth favourite in the betting. There wasn’t a lot of support for him at the traditional Call Of The Card but the big players stepped in on game day and he was solid at around $11 at BetEasy.
Drawn poorly out in gate 21, co-incidentally the last winner to start from that barrier was Shocking, most experts predicted that Williams would be forced to go back early. After jumping well and stuck wide, he showed initiative and crossed at the post with a lap to go before taking a sit behind the leader. It was a masterstroke as the hot tempo never transpired, the back-markers never got into the race and Williams saved every inch of ground along the rails. He still may not have won had it not been for some severe interference that saw the Master of Reality relegated from second to fourth. Prince of Arran was awarded second place, while Il Paradiso was the hard-luck story after the interference left it to be awarded third.
It took a training plan that never missed a beat and an exquisite ride to break the drought and keep the Cup Down Under. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 10 years to get the better of the international raiders again!
2019 Melbourne Cup Finishing Order
1st Vow And Declare
2nd Prince of Arran
3rd Il Paradiso
4th Master of Reality
5th Surprise Baby
6th Mer De Glace
8th Cross Counter
9th Steel Prince
10th Magic Wand
11th Twilight Payment
14th Mirage Dancer
15th Hunting Horn
16th Raymond Tusk
17th The Chosen One
19th Southern France