Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Drama-filled 151st Emirates Melbourne Cup

Dunaden (yellow) beats Red Cadeaux (Red) in a photo finish [Photo: Reuters]

Christophe Lemaire won the Emirates Melbourne Cup on his first ride in Australia but the French jockey had to wait several anxious minutes as the judge examined the photo on the closest finish in the 151-year history of the famous ‘two-miler.’

It was a drama filled race for the connections of Dunaden. The horse was not entered in the Emirates Melbourne Cup until its sensational win in the rough and tumble Geelong Cup. The owner, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, the young Qatari racing enthusiast behind Qipco's sponsorship of the British Champions Series, then decided to pay the late entry fee and run the horse in the Emirates Airways Melbourne Cup. However, the original jockey, Craig Williams, received a riding suspension penalty for his part in the roughness of the Geelong Cup Race win some days earlier in the carnival. Williams had appealed the stewards suspension to the Victorian Racing Commission Appeals Committee but was unsuccessful. He then took his case to the Victorian Court of Arbitration in Sport and again was unsuccessful.

In the interim, Dunaden's connections flew in their stand-by jockey, Christophe Lemaire, from Japan barely 24hours before the race.

Dunaden pipped the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux right on the line to give the French their second successive win in the Cup at Flemington. There was a further gap of a length and a quarter to the Australian trained and German bred horse, Lucas Cranach, in third, with favourite Americain running on stoutly for fourth.

Lemaire had been riding in Japan and was only approached to be on stand-by for the ride six days before the Cup after Craig Williams, the horse’s regular partner, had been suspended for careless riding at the country track Bendigo.

“I’m very sorry for him,” Lemaire said. “He’s a good friend of mine. He must be devastated. Two years ago in France, I had a fall before the Arc weekend, and I missed eight winners, including four Group Ones, so I know disappointment.”

The winner was trained by Frenchman Mikel Delzangles, who last year had masterminded the campaign of Makfi, winner of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the season’s champion three-year-old miler. Earlier in his career, he had been assistant for 10 years to Alain de Royer-Dupre, the trainer of Americain.

“The way races are run in France is similar to Australia,” Delzangles explained. “You need to quicken up in the last furlong. Thanks to Americain last year, we (the French) knew it was possible,” he added.

The winning owner Sheikh Fahad al Thani was landing only his second Group One prize, having come into the sport less than two years ago. The enthusiast, only just turned 23 years, said he had become fascinated by racing when studying at a business college in London. He preferred thoroughbreds to the pure-bred Arabian breed owned by other members of his family in Qatar.

He had become so fascinated by horses and racing, Sheikh Fahad replied: “It’s in our blood. The origins of the horses we see today were in the Middle East.”

Americain was attempting to become only the fifth to win back-to-back Cups, and although he finished strongly, he never looked likely to pick any of the first three. He was beaten by the weight.

Manighar, who finished fifth, fared better of the two Luca Cumani-trained stayers, while Godolphin’s Lost In The Moment ran an extremely good race for sixth after slipping through along the inside in the home straight and then floundering. On the day, all those who figured in the finish were coming up the centre of the track or wider.

Mark Johnston’s Fox Hunt ran on one-paced for seventh, while the heavily-backed Niwot, whose price halved in the two days before the Cup, looked a chance at the top of the straight but trailed in eighth of the 23 runners. Mourayan was withdrawn on the day of the race after being found to be sore.

French kiss: Christophe Lemaire and trainer Mikel Delzangles
celebrate Dunaden's victory [Photo: Reuters]


Jim said...

Now that was close! Wonder how they chose the winner before photo finishes? Wouldn't want that responsibility!

LindaG said...

Wow. That is one of the closest races I've seen. Congratulations to the winner!