02 November 2021

Verry Elleegant claims Melbourne Cup glory

02 November 2021

Verry Elleegant proved too strong for hot favourite Incentivise as she landed the Lexus Melbourne Cup in the hands of jockey James McDonald.

Trained by Chris Waller, the six-year-old mare improved on last year’s seventh place to come home a cosy winner in the two-mile contest.

Andrew Balding’s British runner Spanish Mission ran an admirable race to finish third in the Flemington feature.

The pre-race attention was focused on Incentivise, the Caulfield Cup winner who was unbeaten in his last nine races, and he was prominent from an early stage, racing wide from the start before moving up to sit in second after passing the post first time.

Persan set a reasonable gallop up front, with McDonald happy to settle in mid division through the first part of the race before taking up a position to challenge turning for home.

Spanish Mission was perfectly placed to make his run down the middle of the track as Incentivise went for home, but Verry Elleegant was sat on his shoulder and when McDonald gave the signal, the response was immediate.

Verry Elleegant fairly sprinted away in the final furlong to come home clear, with Spanish Mission staying on all the way for Craig Williams but just failing to catch Incentivise for second.

The winner was claiming a 10th Group One victory, with Waller and McDonald winning the Melbourne Cup for the first time.

Last year’s winner Twilight Payment failed to figure for trainer Joseph O’Brien.

When one door closes another one opens

McDonald was originally booked to ride Away He Goes for Ismail Mohammed, but after the British-trained runner suffered a setback last week, the rider switched to Verry Elleegant and he was thrilled to claim the Spring Carnival highlight.

“To pilot horses like Verry Elleegant each and every carnival is a huge privilege,” McDonald told www.racing.com.

“Today we are lucky enough to win a Melbourne Cup.

“I was booked for Away He Goes and sadly he went amiss. When one door closes another one opens.”

Waller was not on course as he remained in Sydney, but his representative Jo Taylor expressed the team’s delight at Verry Elleegant’s four-length verdict.

She said: “This is unreal, I think this is what everyone in Australian racing dreams of. It’s just such a pity Chris can’t be here, he certainly deserves this more than anyone.

“The entire team is very emotional and it means the world to us.”

Spanish Mission ran a fine race in third (Alan Crowhurs/PA) (PA Wire)

Tony Noonan has been overseeing Spanish Mission’s preparations in Australia on Balding’s behalf and he reported the handler to be thrilled with the run, beaten just half a length by Incentivise.

He said: “Straight after the horse went over the line, I rang him (Balding) and he was ecstatic. It’s an enormous training performance – this horse hasn’t run for months.

“He sent him over a really fit horse and it’s just fantastic.

“He looks like he could go around again. He’s got an amazing aerobic capacity. His recovery from his work since he’s been here is just awesome. He’s a proper horse.”

Incentivise was sent off the shortest-priced favourite since Phar Lap in 1930 and while he ultimately fell short, trainer Peter Moody’s assistant Catherine Coleman was more than satisfied with his first try at two miles.

“He was absolutely super and we couldn’t be prouder of him. His first go at that trip carrying that weight, he has been absolutely phenomenal today,” Coleman said.

“Brett (Prebble) rode him to perfection today, he’s just run into an absolute champion in Verry Elleegant. She’s just a phenomenon this mare, and Chris has done such a wonderful job. We just take our hat off to her.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox