MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Verry Elleegant surged home to beat hot favorite Incentivise and win the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, giving high-profile trainer Chris Waller his first victory in Australia’s most famous horse race.
It was the New Zealand-bred mare’s 10th Group 1 win. Spanish Mission was third in the 3,200-meter (2-mile) classic.
Waller was renowned for training record-breaking Winx, which won 33 consecutive races and had 25 Group 1 wins before retiring. Waller now has another impressive credential.
Winning jockey James McDonald described Verry Elleegant as a super hero after beating Incentivise by four lengths, and said “I love her to bits.”
“She is trained by a master — he gets them right,” McDonald said in a post-race TV interview. “She was relaxed the whole way. When I looked up about the 600 (meters to go), I was blowing kisses to her.”
Incentivise, trained by Peter Moody, was aiming for a 10th consecutive win, including the Caulfield Cup over 2,400 meters on Oct. 16.
Twilight Payment returned from Ireland to defend its title but ran in the middle for much of the race and finished 11th.
With Melbourne only recently coming out of a lengthy COVID-19 lockdown, the Flemington Racecourse was restricted to a crowd of 10,000 fully-vaccinated people. It can accommodate up to 120,000 spectators on major race days.
Still, it was an improvement on last year. There was no crowd allowed because of restrictions in place for the pandemic in 2020, when Twilight Payment beat Tiger Moth by a half length and Prince of Arran placed third for the third consecutive year.
The so-called “race that stops a nation” has been held since 1861 and regularly attracted crowds of more than 100,000.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports