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McNeil repays faith with gem of a ride to take Cup

5 min read
European-trained stayers dominated the finish of the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup, but a fearless ride by Jye McNeil aboard Twilight Payment (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) ensured Australia played a major role in the outcome of the Flemington feature.

Joseph O’Brien, 27, again denied his father Aidan of victory in the Melbourne Cup when his bold front-runner Twilight Payment was too good in the hands of McNeil for Tiger Moth (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) with Prince Of Arran (GB) (Shirocco {Ger}) third.

In 2017, O’Brien prepared Rekindling (Ire) (High Chaparral {Ire}) to edge out his dad’s Johannes Vermeer (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and it was again a triumph for the Williams family with Twilight Payment handing them their seventh Cup triumph.

Heart-breakingly, O’Brien senior had to deal with a far more severe blow following the news that his G1 English Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) fractured a fetlock during Tuesday’s race and was humanely euthanised.

Central to this year’s success story was jockey McNeil who rated Twilight Payment superbly to execute O’Brien’s pre-race instructions to the letter.

“I had goosebumps and am overwhelmed with emotion, it’s a miracle. I had to be positive because he was a little bit slow into gear, he jumped with them but a touch slow to really find his rhythm,” McNeil said.

“I had goosebumps and am overwhelmed with emotion, it’s a miracle.” – Jye McNeil

“I encouraged him to go forward because that was the plan and he got into a fantastic rhythm and was breathing really well. It was just a matter then of upping the tempo at the right stage and I’m just glad it all worked out.”

Twilight Payment bowled along at the head of affairs before McNeil slipped him more rein to put the pressure on a fair way from home and get the chasers off the bridle.

“It’s exactly what Joseph wanted, for me to be a step ahead of the field and really get them chasing,” McNeil said.

“What he lacked in class he makes up for with his staying ability so it was always the plan that Joseph expressed to me and I’m so glad it worked.”

Twilight Payment (Ire) (red cap)

Twilight Payment was clear at the top of the straight and was defiant in the run to the post to have 0.4l on Tiger Moth with Chalie Fellowes' marvel Prince Of Arran coming on well for his third successive placing in the race.

"We were able to get across into a nice spot. The winner kept running, I just had to pick up to get into the race, which he did, but the winner was just a bit strong today,” Tiger Moth’s rider Kerrin McEvoy said.

“It was a great run for a young horse having only his fifth start in a race. He's run really well."

“It was a great run for a young horse having only his fifth start in a race. He's run really well." – Kerrin McEvoy

Prince Of Arran’s rider Jamie Kah said they struck trouble in the running before the straight. "He was super unlucky. He really deserves it. He just had no luck on the turn."

The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-prepared The Chosen One (NZ) (Savabeel) was the first Australasian-trained runner home in fourth spot.

“He tried his heart out. He gave a good kick and tried really hard, but he just found the end just a little bit tough. He did well,” Daniel Stackhouse said.

Enough in the reserve

Twilight Payment was also feeling the pinch close to home but had enough in reserve to see it through.

“He peaked on his run 200 metres out and I got very vocal trying to encourage him and it was very surreal crossing line,” McNeil said. “It’s been a lifetime dream and I want to thank all those close to me, Joseph and the Williams family, it’s overwhelming.”

“It’s been a lifetime dream and I want to thank all those close to me, Joseph and the Williams family, it’s overwhelming.” – Jye McNeil

Nick Williams was effusive in his praise of the part McNeil played in the Cup success and also the foresight of his father Lloyd.

“The horse was fantastic and aided by a beautiful ride from Jye to get the job done. Dad said to me two or three months ago when there was doubt about the Sydney jockeys coming here that he had booked Jye and said he’s the best young rider in the country,” he said.

“Once again Dad has been proved right and he’s an absolute genius. It was a great ride and none of the great European jockeys could have ridden him any better.”

Jye McNeil and Twilight Payment (Ire)

While ecstatic with the result, Williams also sent his condolences to the connections of Anthony Van Dyck.

“We send all our sympathy to the team at Coolmore, who put in a huge amount of money and go to every big dance,” he said. “I feel terrible for them, it’s a shocking thing to happen at any time.”

“We send all our sympathy to the team at Coolmore, who put in a huge amount of money and go to every big dance.” – Nick Williams

Runner-up Tiger Moth was gallant and Prince Of Arran again showed his great love for Australian conditions. The Chosen One belied his 40-1 starting price with a terrific effort ahead of the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained stablemates Persan (Pierro) and Sir Dragonet (Ire) (Camelot {GB}).

“I was very proud of Persan and I expected him to run well in the race with that weight (51kg) and the preparation he had,” Maher said.

“The only negative was the draw and he finished full of running, he was fantastic. We’ll map out a plan into next year and see if we can go a bit better.”

Maher was also delighted with the performance of his G1 Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet.

“The difference between winning and losing was at the start. He missed it and was four pairs further back than we wanted so I thought it was a super run,” he said.