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Vow And Declare wins the Cup for Australia

5 min read
Vow And Declare (Declaration Of War {USA}) repelled an almighty European challenge on his home turf to be crowned the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup champion and proudly hoist the Australian flag at full mast at Flemington.

Vow And Declare’s depths of stamina were on full show as he overcame a wide gate to win one of the world’s most treasured staying prizes.

He first showed he was a stayer of immense promise last season as a 3-year-old when he beat the older horses in the G3 Tatts Cup after finishing runner-up in the G1 Queensland Derby.

A European style approach was adopted by trainer Danny O’Brien in the Melbourne Cup lead up, with Vow And Declare running only twice, finishing fourth in the G1 Turnbull S. and second in the G1 Caulfield Cup.

Vow And Declare, who was making just his 13th race day appearance, wasn’t helped by a poor gate, but jockey Craig Williams took that out of play by going forward to briefly lead and then tucked Vow And Declare in on the fence.

“Craig grabbed the bull by both horns and was in front at the winning post the first time and that was probably the winning move,” O’Brien said.

“I left it completely up to Craig and he rolled the dice. That’s why he’s an outstanding jockey – he wasn’t afraid to try something different.”

“I left it completely up to Craig and he rolled the dice. That’s why he’s an outstanding jockey." - Danny O'Brien

Vow And Declare looked to labouring near the 300 metre mark, but he rallied in heroic fashion to nail the Joseph O’Brien-trained Master Of Reality (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) with Prince Of Arran (GB) (Shirocco {Ger}) replicating his third placing of 12 months ago for trainer Charlie Fellowes.

However, the drama didn’t end there and a subsequent protest from fourth placegetter Il Paradiso (USA) (Galileo {Ire}) on the grounds of interference from the runner-up was upheld and Master Of Reality, whose rider Frankie Dettori copped a nine meeting suspension, was relegated to fourth.

Prince Of Arran was promoted to second and Il Paradiso, who was slow to begin, moved up to third.

A protest added to the drama of the race

"Charlie and the team have done a great job. I love the horse and I just wanted to win it, you know. I feel like I’ve let him down," said Prince Of Arran’s rider Michael Walker.

For Williams, his early aggression aboard Vow And Declare rewarded him with his first Cup victory.

“I’m just lucky enough to be sitting on this horse,” he said

“It was a privilege to ride him. We had a difficult barrier and Danny said to trust the horse and he’s a great horse – look at him, he knows he won. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity.

“It was a privilege to ride him... Look at him, he knows he won. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity." - Craig Williams

“I’ve got to thank everyone around me and that’s touched me throughout my career.”

Craig Williams

Williams’ family and his father Alan, a former jockey turned trainer, were all on course to cherish the moment.

“It’s absolutely fantastic and it was a great ride, not because he won but because it was a great ride from the draw,” Alan Williams said.

“I’m really proud of him and he’s worked really hard all his life. I’m really stoked for him, it was a great effort.”

Despite a disappointing outcome, Master Of Reality’s trainer Joseph O’Brien was proud of his 5-year-old’s performance.

Despite a disappointing outcome, Joseph O’Brien was proud of his 5-year-old’s performance

“Obviously, the horse ran a fantastic race and Frankie gave him a perfect ride. That’s racing, some days you win and some days you lose,” O’Brien said.

“We’re gutted, but look forward to coming back next year. It’s a fantastic race and the horse ran a blinder, mixed emotions I guess.”

“We’re gutted, but look forward to coming back next year." - Joseph O'Brien

New Zealand-bred Surprise Baby (NZ) (Shocking) ran bravely to finish fifth ahead of the G1 Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace (Jpn) (Rulership {Jpn}).

"He just never settled at any point. He pulled his head off the whole race on the slow speed and I had a chequered passage getting through them,” rider Damian Lane said.

Surprise Baby (NZ) ran a gallant fifth

The favourite Finche (GB) (Frankel {GB}) was next to finish and he enjoyed a good run behind the leading pack on the fence and got off the rail at the right time before grinding to the post.

"He ran great. The pace wasn’t that strong,” rider Kerrin McEvoy said. “I would’ve liked them to go a bit quicker, but we presented at the top of the lane and thought he was a real chance there at the 300. He then just levelled out the last little bit."

Last year’s victor Cross Counter (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) and topweight was next to cross the line and rider William Buick said it was a huge effort after missing the jump.

Rostropovich pulled up lame and was shipped to Werribee with a suspected pelvis fracture. His prognosis is positive at this stage, Lindsay Park Racing have advised.