Dubai: All the highs and lows, drama and history that are quintessential to the sport of horse racing came to the fore in Tuesday’s AU$8 million Melbourne Cup (Dh20m), the richest two-mile handicap in the world and an event that is proudly referred to as ‘the race that stops the nation’.
Craig Williams, a 42-year-old veteran and winner of 1,786 races worldwide, won a coveted career-first Melbourne Cup in his 15th attempt aboard the 10/1 shot Vow And Declare, who was doing the best work in a heart-stopping eight-horse finish to the famous two-mile contest.
Williams also made history as one of the oldest jockeys to lift the trophy.
Interestingly, the youngest jockey to win the Cup was Peter St Albans who was 12 years, 11 months and 23 days old when he triumphed in on Briseis in 1876.
Historically, the Melbourne Cup has served up so many stories to reminisce about and Tuesday’s 159th renewal of the prestigious race was no different.
Just over a length separated the mob at the line with the winner a head in front of a trio of European raiders led by Prince of Arran, Il Paradiso (third) and Master Of Reality (fourth).
Godolphin’s Cross Counter, bidding to become only the sixth horse in history to win the Cup twice or more (Makybe Diva won it three times in 2003, 2004, 2005), ran a huge race in defeat to finish eighth in a 24-strong field.
Cross Counter was ridden by Scandinavian jockey William Buick for English Derby-winning handler Charlie Appleby.
While Williams was experiencing the highs of winning for the first time, on the other end of the spectrum top European Frankie Dettori was close to tears after narrowly missing out on victory, a massive led-down that was further compounded by an eight-day ban for careless riding.
Riding Master Of Reality, owned by six-time Melbourne Cup winner Lloyd Williams and trained by Joseph O’Brien, Dettori hit the front in the home straight and looked to be shaping like a winner only to be passed by Craig Williams and Vow And Declare.
To add insult to injury, Master Of Reality was demoted to fourth place after Dettori’s mount was found to have interfered with Aidan O’Brien’s galloper Il Paradiso, who was subsequently promoted to third.
But the day belonged totally to Australian connections.
Danny O’Brien, the trainer of Vow And Declare paid tribute to Williams when he tweeted: “I left it completely up to Craig ... he rolled the dice like he does, he’s an outstanding jockey and wasn’t afraid to try something different”
Williams commented: “I feel very privileged. I grew up watching races, dreamt of these occasions like this but I can’t do it without my team around me. Vow And Declare gave me a wonderful ride. I wasn’t given any instructions. I want to savour the moment. Thanks to all the people who turned out today.”