Verry Elleegant upsets favourite Incentivise to win Melbourne Cup
Trainer Chris Waller finally got his hands on the Melbourne Cup after Verry Elleegant, ridden by James McDonald, upset the overwhelming pre-race favourite Incentivise at Flemington racecourse.
Incentivise, one of the shortest-priced Cup favourites, had to settle for second place in the $8m race over 3,200m with UK-trained Spanish Mission crossing the line in third. Floating Artist was fourth, The Chosen One fifth and Grand Promenade sixth.
After a spectator-free event due to Covid-19 restrictions in Victoria last year, a 10,000-strong fully-vaccinated crowd was allowed back in the stands on Tuesday and they made their voices heard as Verry Elleegant surged down the home straight.
In perfect racing conditions under blue skies, the six-year-old mare delivered a first Cup win for Waller after overhauling Incentivise on the long Flemington straight and then leaving the star of this year’s Spring Carnival in her wake.
The reigning Australian horse of the year crossed the line three-and-a-half lengths in front to claim her 10th Group 1 win, while victory for Waller added the Cup to his collection of four Cox Plates won with Winx.
“I never thought I would ever win one,” McDonald said. “I always dreamed of winning one, but it’s so hard to win. A dream come true. When I went for home, I don’t know, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was thinking, where’s that post?
“She travelled so sweetly in the run for such a big way. She is trained by a master. He gets them right. She is a superstar and I’m so proud of her.
“We’ve been along for the ride for so many seasons now. This has cemented her place right up the top of those real top horses because what she’s done over the years, some seven furlongs to 3,200m. To win one of the biggest races in the land, it is just incredible.”
McDonald only found himself partnering the eventual winner after UK horse Away He Goes was scratched less than a week ago and the jockey was booked late to pilot Verry Elleegant, who was entered into the Cup after her Cox Plate placing.
Waller, who is based in Sydney, was not trackside to watch his charge’s greatest victory but the stable’s assistant trainer, Johanne Taylor, paid tribute to the absent trainer.
“This is unreal,” she said. “I think everyone in Australian racing dreams of this. It’s such a pity Chris can’t be here. He certainly deserves this more than anyone. Very emotional from the entire team and it means the world to us.”
All 23 horses that started the race crossed the finish line. The starting field had been reduced by one after the late scratching of outsider Future Score, who showed signs of lameness on race eve and failed veterinary checks on Tuesday morning.
There had also been doubts over the participation of Delphi but the former UK-based horse was passed fit and came home seventh as champion jockey Damian Oliver’s bid for a fourth Cup triumph fell short.
The build up to the main race had been disrupted as animal rights activists gathered outside the racecourse gates. Eight horses have died following the Melbourne Cup event in the past nine years.