Michael Guerin: Top racing family’s Melbourne Cup ecstasy then agony
The joy of a stunning second Melbourne Cup quinella will be tempered by the heartache of losing a great horse for racing’s most famous family.
Irish galloper Twilight Payment led almost throughout to win the A$7.75 million thriller at Flemington, giving his 27-year-old trainer Joseph O’Brien his second win in the iconic race after Rekindling’s win in 2017.
Quite remarkably both times O’Brien has beaten horses trained by his father Aidan, considered the world’s greatest horse trainer, whose representative Tiger Moth was a mammoth second yesterday after working hard from nearly the widest barrier in the race.
Finishing second to his son will not bother Aidan O’Brien greatly but what will hurt is the tragedy of the race in Aidan’s other starter Anthony Van Dyck having to be humanely put down after the race.
He fractured a leg at the top of the Flemington straight, immediately being pulled up by jockey Hugh Bowman.
Racing Victoria bosses confirmed the sad news with a fractured fetlock the reason for racing’s cruellest blow.
To lose any horse is devastating for horse trainers but Anthony Van Dyck was special, the winner of last year’s English Derby, the first winner of that race to ever race in Australia.
The loss the O’Brien stable feel will have nothing to do with money. You can’t be a good horse trainer without loving horses.
The fact Anthony Van Dyck will not return home to Ireland will be heartbreaking for all involved with the horse. Anybody who has owned, trained or even worked with a horse will know their pain.
The sadness of that incident should not detract from what Joseph O’Brien and young rider Jye McNeil, having his first ride in the Melbourne Cup, achieved.
O’Brien is bred to be a genius trainer but rarely is such talent so rewarded not once but twice at such a young age.
He is already well down the pathway to joining his father and grandfather as horse racing legends.
McNeil was both brave and brilliant, pushing forward hard early and then letting Twilight Payment, no spring chicken at eight years old, roll along at a strong speed and he was never really challenged, pulling clear at the top of the straight.
It was the ultimate Melbourne Cup no excuses victory.
Prince Of Arran flew into third, his third placing in the Cup, just ahead of New Zealand’s sole representative The Chosen One who looked a winning chance at the 300m as he surged at the leaders.
“He was beaten by three very good European horses but he did us all proud,” said co-trainer Andrew Forsman, who watched the race from Ellerslie.
Former New Zealand mare Verry Elleegant ran on well for seventh after getting too far back, with the fast time deterring her and many others from making a mid-race move.
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