All in all, 22 runners lined up for the Aus$5.6 million race contested at two miles, with a crowd of 108,000 on track for the race that traditionally stops the entire nation. In three states of Australia the race is so big and so important it is declared a public holiday. And on the pari-mutuel windows across Australia alone, there was $135 million wagered on the race – up 11.2% on last year’s record.
Included in the field was the horse considered to be the best stayer in the world – Septimus, who had won the Irish St. Leger (Ire-I) by 13 lengths at his most recent start. Aidan O’Brien, his trainer, was in Melbourne with two others from his Ballydoyle set up – Honolulu and Alessandro Volta.
Just prior to the race O’Brien said, “Septimus feels like an old pro. He settled in really well in Australia and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Also in the race was English trainer Luca Cumani’s outstanding pair Mad Rush and Bauer. Mad Rush went to the post as the race favorite while Bauer was a 25-1 chance even though he had won the Aust-3 Geelong Cup over 12 furlongs as his final hit out two weeks ago.
Dermot Weld had a runner too in his rising star mare Profound Beauty.
In fact so enticing has the Melbourne Cup become that a record eight Northern Hemisphere horses made the final field this year, while there were four New Zealand horses. Such overseas flavor prompted Cummings to say prior to the running this year that it “is going to be hard to spot the Aussie out there anymore.”
Cummings had two horses in the race – Viewed (Scenic-Lover’s Knot) and last Saturday’s group II winner Moatize (Danehill Dancer-Shezabeel). Moatize had the only female rider in the race in Clare Lindop on his back. Viewed was a 40-1 chance while Moatize was 20-1. These long prices were mainly due to the fact so much money was wagered on the European visitors.
Mad Rush was favorite, just ahead of Septimus who one punter had wagered $60,000 on to win 15 minutes before the race, and Profound Beauty, who was the heavily tried fourth favorite.
The Europeans came to Australia with vaunted records (mainly because the world seems to view European form as being superior) and after watching how well they disassembled the Breeders’ Cup World Championships meeting at Santa Anita, punters thought perhaps the same would occur at Flemington.
Ballydoyle certainly thought so.
Upon the barrier rise the O’Brien trio took off. All ridden by Irish jockeys, they wrestled for the lead at a breakneck pace, and led the rest of the field by six lengths as they passed the half-way point. Septimus was the one of the three they were riding for, as he had cover behind Alessandro Volta and Honolulu. The Cumani pair, wisely in the hands of local jockeys Damien Oliver (Mad Rush) and Corey Brown (Bauer) were far back, traveling together throughout in the 11th and 12th spots.
By the time there was three furlongs to run, Alessandro Volta was tiring while Honolulu, a last start easy group winner in Ireland, was dropping back through the huge pack. They wound up second last and last across the line.
Septimus, momentarily hit the front upon the point of the home turn but was gone shortly afterwards, finishing 18th. His rider Johnny Murtagh summed up best the experience when he said post race: “I think we need to examine what type of horse to bring to Australia. Septimus wasn’t the right one.”
The riding tactics of the Irishmen earned the wrath of the chief steward Terry Bailey who hauled all of them in for a “please explain” conference following race.
Meanwhile, Mad Rush and Bauer, began their moves as they approached the home turn. As did Blake Shinn on Viewed for Cummings. Making his 24th start in a race, the 4-year-old Viewed, who had won the 12-furlong Brisbane Cup (Aus-II) in June by that race’s biggest margin in history ( seven lengths) with his head on his chest, sprinted brilliantly.
“I was tracking Viewed throughout,” explained Oliver on Mad Rush , “and when he took off as they straightened I did too. At that stage I had him well beaten but with a furlong to go my horse ran out of gas on the fast track.” He finished seventh.
Viewed, on the other hand, sustained his run so proficiently that he reached the lead with a furlong and a half to travel. “I had had such a clean run throughout and I knew with five furlongs to travel I had a horse that was going beautifully. But I was shocked when he reached the lead that far from home. I thought, what have I done, I’ve gone too early on him,” said Shinn. “He was full bore and going flat out but then I heard Corey coming at me on Bauer.”
And come he did. Bauer, who Cumani had wisely given a race start in Australia two weeks ago at Geelong in the $250,000 Geelong Cup over 12 furlongs, which he won easily, was churning his legs like a superstar. He was storming home. He’d left his much more fancied stablemate Mad Rush in his wake and he drew level with Viewed with 55 yards to run.
“But my horse just kept fighting,” said Shinn. “It was so close that I wasn’t 100% sure he had lasted but when the interviewer came over to me as I was returning to scale, I knew then and I felt like I needed to cry. It’s an absolute credit to Mr. Cummings, who is a magician. I am going to cry for sure tonight as this is everything I have ever dreamed about since I was a child and to win a Melbourne Cup is beyond expectations. It will take a long time before I realize I have just done something that will change my life.”
For Brown on Bauer (Halling-Dali’s Grey), the effort took its toll. He was not available for any interviews post race, who had his third placing without a victory in seven Melbourne Cup tries.
Winding up third in the race was the outstanding New Zealand-bred 4-year-old C’est La Guerre (Shinko King-La Magnifique) who was ridden by Brett Prebble. He had been back in 17th spot throughout and traveled beautifully throughout.
“He was bolting coming to the turn and then wham, I got flattened and it allowed the others to get a march on me,” Prebble said. “But he just stormed home. He’ll be an outstanding horse for next year and will be very hard to beat. It was a super run.”
C’est La Guerre was purchased by a group of Australians earlier this year after he easily won the 12 furlongs New Zealand Derby. One of them to buy him was Lloyd Williams, who owned Efficient, last year’s Cup winner.
The fourth horse home was also unlucky. That was last year’s Caulfield Cup (Aus-I) winner Master O’Reilly, who started favorite in the Melbourne Cup last year but plodded home for 8th. This year he had to weave a checkered passage through the big field down the home stretch and he was full of running on the line.
“Should have finished so much closer. It was just a shame but at least we know he can get the distance strongly now so next year may be his go,” claimed his rider Vlad Duric.
Glenn Boss who had won three Melbourne Cups on the champion Makybe Diva, thought he had another one with two furlongs to go. His mount Profound Beauty did loom up with Viewed at that stage but she plodded the final furlong.
“It was the ground. I had a perfect run but she just would not stretch out on the fast track over the last furlong. But what a run. She is a high quality racehorse.”
Moatize ran a courageous sixth while the heavily backed Kiwi visitor Nom du Jeu ran a plugging eighth. Zipping, who had run fourth in the past two Melbourne Cups, was ninth, and rounding out the top 10 was recent Metrop (Aus-I) winner Newport. The first ten receive substantial prize money.
The Cup win was trainer Cummings’ 250th group I win and he turns 81 years old next week. The winning owner was Singapore multi-millionaire Dato Tan Chin Nam and it was his fourth Melbourne Cup winner.
“I have four Cups now so I don’t mind if we never win another one,” he chuckled. “Mind you, if they give us one more we will take it. But I would like to thank my man in Australia who picks yearlings for me – Duncan Ramage. Thank you very much for buying this horse as a yearling for me and thanks to Bart. We have been together for about 35 years.”
Cummings won his first Cup as a trainer 50 years ago. It was his eighth win from 24 starts with four placings
The race this year was run in a quick 3:20.4. Viewed took his lifetime earnings to Aus$3,981,500.