Australia's biggest Thoroughbred prize has fallen to Ireland's O'Brien stable—but perhaps not the one most might have expected.
Just 18 months into his career as a trainer, Joseph O'Brien produced Rekindling to win the 3,200-meter (about two miles) Emirates Melbourne Cup (G1), wearing down his father Aidan O'Brien's Galileo colt Johannes Vermeer to win the lion's share of the AU$6 million (about $4.8 million) prize.
The 24-year-old became one of the youngest trainers to win the race, and he won the Cup before his incredibly successful father did. It was also the sixth winner in the race for owner Lloyd Williams, who shared the ownership with his son Nick and several others. Williams was also a co-owner of Johannes Vermeer.
"I can't quite believe it yet, to be honest," Joseph O'Brien said after the race.
"I've been very lucky to have some nice horses, and especially Lloyd and Nick, they sent me this horse at the start of the year, and he's had a good year, and to cap it off today, it's unbelievable."
Rekindling, a 14-1 shot by High Chaparral, began his year with a group 3 success at Leopardstown in Ireland. He won the Corner Group International Curragh Cup (G2) in July, finished second to Europe's leading stayer Order of St George in the Corner Group International Irish St Leger Trial Stakes (G3), and was fourth to Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (G1) winner Capri in the William Hill St Leger Stakes (G1) at Doncaster.
Australian jockey Corey Brown, who previously won the race on Shocking in 2009, settled Rekindling about midfield on the rail and improved to be close to the front at the top of the stretch.
Johannes Vermeer (12-1) showed the sharper turn of foot to lead with just over a furlong to run, but could not hold off Rekindling, to whom he was conceding about six pounds.
"He's quite tiny, but he's got a big heart," Brown said.
"The race was run to a great tempo for him. I just needed to get a bit of luck on him."
Rekindling became the youngest horse to win the Cup since 1941. Though listed as a 4-year-old in the racebook, which lists all horse ages according to Southern Hemisphere time, the British-bred Rekindling is still 3 by Northern Hemisphere time. No 3-year-old of any kind has won since Skipton in 1941.
The Cup was Johannes Vermeer's third great effort in Australia this spring without a win. Previously he finished second in the Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes (G1) and third in the BMW Caulfield Cup (G1). He picked up about AU$1.3 million over the three races.
Max Dynamite, the 2015 runner-up from the barn of Willie Mullins, made it a 1-2-3 for Irish trainers when finishing third at 19-1 odds, with the former European galloper Big Duke, now trained by Darren Weir, the best of the locally-trained runners.
Marmelo and Almandin, co-favorites at 6-1, didn't have any dash, finishing ninth and 12th, respectively. Humidor, runner-up to Winx in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (G1) in his previous start, finished 19th at odds of 10-1.