Gold Trip triumph a first for all
There was only ever going to be one horse, one jockey and one trainer in the headlines after Lexus Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington - except this time, there were two trainers in the spotlight as Ciaron Maher and David Eustace became the first ever partnership to land 'the race that stops a nation', the $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup, with Gold Trip.
Ridden by Mark Zahra, who also scored his first Lexus Melbourne Cup success, Gold Trip sprinted up powerfully from beyond midfield in what was a relentlessly run Cup to put himself firmly in the frame at the 300 metres. At that point, it became a question of stamina as rivals came at him from all over.
Any queries were quickly tossed aside, though, as he came away again on the line, posting a two-length success over Geelong Cup winner Emissary with a further length and a quarter back to Bendigo Cup hero High Emocean in third.
For Maher and Eustace, it meant that they had finished first and third in the Lexus Melbourne Cup - just as Emissary's trainer Mike Moroney did in 2000 with Brew and Second Coming - and it was a new high water mark for a duo that had conquered almost everything before them in Australian racing.
“I can’t believe it," Eustace said. "I’m obviously a bit overcome. It’s a dream that we all want to achieve. It’s the pinnacle for our sport and to do it with Ciaron, it's quite incredible."
Added Zahra: "I can't put this into words, I'll start crying. It's unbelievable. What a day. Elation, just elation, it's absolutely surreal."
The Macca's Run
However, while Gold Trip stole the headlines, perhaps the staying performance of the day belonged to unbeaten Irish import White Marlin in The Macca's Run (2800m).
It may only have been a Benchmark 96 handicap, but his five and a half length triumph under Tim Clark suggests that he is a stayer of immense potential.
The race has been won in the past by future Group 1 winners like Shraaoh and Grand Marshal, while eventual Melbourne Cup placegetter Zazzman is also among the list of winners.
Trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott hope that next year's Lexus Melbourne Cup might be a realistic goal for the grey.
“He’s the real deal and I hope we’ll see him this time next year," Waterhouse said.
Bott added: “He just keeps getting better and he was very impressive today. He’s gone to a new level. Up in class, up in trip, he was very dominant. Obviously, the long range plan is to be back here in 12 months."
There may have been no international winners in this year's Lexus Melbourne Cup but young British expats Archie Alexander and Annabel Neasham produced a stakes winner apiece at Flemington on Cup Day.
Alexander's High Approach became the first Australian stakes winner for Swettenham Stud stallion Highland Reel in taking the Listed TAB Trophy (1800m) in a fighting performance under Ben Melham.
Clearly passed by the Chris Waller-trained Lindermann, he fought back to score by a head.
“I thought he was going to run well but he just kept on grinding and grinding. He’s a good horse,” Alexander said. “We’ve always thought he was a Derby horse and, to be honest, we thought he might run in the Derby right now but it all came a bit too soon.
“He’ll probably have a break and be aimed at, who knows, maybe a Derby.
“This is our Olympics and it’s the biggest week of the year. No matter what day, what race, it’s amazing to win."
Two races later, Neasham prevailed over the same course and distance with the enigmatic Bartholomeu Dias successful in the Listed Furphy Plate (1800m) under a bold, patient Tommy Berry ride.
Representing Highclere Australia, whose intended Cup runner Durston was withdrawn from the feature, Bartholomeu Dias proved a heartwarming consolation for British racing identity Harry Herbert and his group of local and international owners.
"He’s such an enigma, this horse. He just loves 1800 metres. He won well at Eagle Farm at a big price over this distance and then we ran him in the Toowoomba Cup, he ran well.
“I think 1800 metres is his sweet spot. I was a little bit worried with the ground deteriorating but I said to Tommy to ride him cold, ride him where he’s happy and if he turns up he can win. He does this."
MSS Security Sprint
Also celebrating after the disappointment of a Cup withdrawal were jockey-trainer combination Grahame Begg and Michael Dee.
Their mare Lunar Flare was scratched from the Lexus Melbourne Cup on race morning but they were able to soothe their pain somewhat when Vespertine took out the Listed MSS Security Sprint (1200m).
“It was fairly disappointing news to wake up to on Cup Day this morning, but these things happen," Dee said. “These horses, they’re not robots so it certainly doesn’t surprise that things can pop up.
“It’s not the end of the world at the end of the day and I’m pretty glad to get one in the last race for Grahame and it just tops off and makes up for a disappointing start.
“When Lunar Flare came out this morning, this mare was my focus at the end of the day."
Flemington trainers Simon Zahra and James Cummings both scored black type wins, too, with Zahra's Krakarib successful in the Group 3 Darley Maribyrnong Plate (1000m) and Cummings gaining a deserved stakes victory for Larkspur Run in the Group 3 Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m).
The ever-popular all-greys race, the Resimax Group Subzero Handicap (1400m), went to Love Tap for Richard and Will Freedman. Ridden by Blake Shinn, he went on to claim a double when the Cummings-prepared Renosu scored a big-priced victory in The Schweppervescence Plate (1000m).
The card also featured the In Memory Of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1400m) which was won by Detonator Jack for Maher and Eustace, capping off a big day for Victoria's champion trainers.