Incredible 160-year-curse ended in historic Melbourne Cup victory

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
James McDonald celebrates after winning the Melbourne Cup.
James McDonald rode Verry Elleegant to victory in the Melbourne Cup from barrier 18, the first time a horse has won from that starting position. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Not in 160 years of running the Melbourne Cup has a horse and jockey accomplished what Verry Elleegant and James McDonald did on Tuesday afternoon.

For the first time in the long history of the Flemington classic, barrier 18 produced a winner.

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Verry Elleegant broke the barrier's curse in resounding fashion to finish several lengths ahead of favourite Incentivise and Spanish Mission.

The victory sealed a decade of excellence in the sport for trainer Chris Waller, while it was a long awaited triumph for McDonald, who had ridden to second and third in the past.

Incentivise, one of the shortest-priced favourites in Cup history, looked the winner at the top of the straight but was no match for Verry Elleegant's late surge.

"I was blowing her kisses the whole way," McDonald said after the race.

Incentivise, the $2.90 favourite, ran a mighty race as he carried a weight of expectation that he could build on a winning streak on racing's biggest stage.

But he had no answer as Verry Elleegant ($18), the reigning Australian horse of the year, strolled to a four-length win in one of the more emphatic Cup victories.

Spanish Mission ($10) ran his heart out for England, looming ominously before taking the minor placing, a half neck behind Incentivise.

Floating Artist was the best of the Ciaron Maher-David Eustace runners in finishing fourth with the New Zealand-trained The Chosen One finishing fifth.

Verry Elleegant's stablemate Ocean Billy was last of the 23 runners.

"This has cemented her place right up the top of those real top horses now because of what she's done over the years," McDonald said.

"To win one of the biggest races on the land, it is just incredible."

The Melbourne Cup was run in front of 10,000 fully-vaccinated racegoers after Victoria's coronavirus restrictions were lifted in time for reduced crowds during the spring carnival.

Chris Waller reaches pinnacle of Australian horse racing

Waller now has in his possession one of Australian sport's most prized trophies to go alongside Winx's four Cox Plates.

He has rewritten all the record books on his way to the top but a Melbourne Cup triumph ranks as the sweetest moment since confirming his arrival among the best in the business.

Waller has won the past 11 Sydney trainers' premierships, trained a horse of a lifetime in Winx and is setting standards that only he is likely to match.

Sydney-based Waller wasn't trackside for a moment every Australian trainer dreams about, but Verry Elleegant was in safe hands as fate stepped in to deliver McDonald a Cup victory that seemed unlikely less than a week go.

Melbourne Cup winning jockey James McDonald celebrates after winning aboard Verry Elleegant.
A jubilant James McDonald celebrates after winning the 2021 Melbourne Cup aboard Verry Elleegant. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

McDonald was set to ride Away He Goes before the UK horse scratched and his booking for Verry Elleegant came at the 11th hour when it was decided to run the mare after her WS Cox Plate placing.

"When I went for home, I don't know, I don't know what I was thinking. I was thinking, where's that post?" McDonald said.

"She travelled so sweetly in the run for such a big way.

"She is trained by a master. He gets them right. She is a superstar and I'm so proud of her."

With AAP

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