Winning owner fined after controversial Melbourne Cup act

·3-min read
Pictured here, Verry Elleegant's owners celebrate after jockey James McDonald wis the Melbourne Cup on their horse.
Verry Elleegant part-owner Brae Sokolski (far left) has been fined $10,000 for breaking Covid-19 protocols at the Melbourne Cup. Pic: Getty

An owner of Melbourne Cup-winning mare Verry Elleegant admits the emotion of the moment "got the better" of him after copping a whopping fine for breaching Covid-19 protocols on race day.

Prominent Melbourne businessman Brae Sokolski hopped the mounting yard fence to meet Verry Elleegant and jockey James McDonald after the mare streaked to a comfortable win in the $8 million race.

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Verry Elleegant upset red-hot favourite Incentivise to claim victory in 'the race that stops a nation', with foreign raider Spanish Mission coming third.

The historic victory marked the first Melbourne Cup triumph for jockey James McDonald and Chris Waller - the trainer of legendary race horse Winx.

However, Sokolski found himself in hot water for an over-exuberant act in the wake of the momentous occasion.

The businessman has been fined $10,000 for breaking Covid-19 rules at Flemington by hopping the mounting yard fence to celebrate with Verry Elleegant's jockey after the win.

Under Racing Victoria and Victoria Racing Club coronavirus protocols, the area is strictly reserved for jockeys, trainers, media and other race day officials.

He also wasn't wearing a face mask, required under mounting yard rules.

Mr Sokolski was interviewed by Racing Victoria stewards on Thursday and pleaded guilty, reducing the severity of his sentence.

Part-owner sorry for 'impetuous decision'

"Stewards heard submissions on penalty from Mr Sokolski and after doing so took into consideration his guilty plea, his candid evidence, his unblemished record over a long period of time and that he expressed remorse," Racing Victoria said in a statement.

"The stewards also took into consideration the nature of the offending, the potential ramifications that could flow from a breach of Racing Victoria's COVID-19 protocols, and that the penalty must be sufficient enough to deter others from breaching the COVID-19 protocols.

"Taking into account the above considerations, the stewards determined that Mr Sokolski be issued a fine of $10,000."

The part-owner said it was an "impetuous decision" to jump the fence and the emotion of the moment "got the better" of him.

"It certainly wasn't premeditated and I am very apologetic," he told SEN radio before speaking to stewards.

"There is no excuse for that and those protocols are in place for good reason."

Seen here, Verry Elleegant jockey James McDonald celebrates after winning the 2021 Melbourne Cup.
Verry Elleegant's win delivered jockey James McDonald and trainer Chris Waller a first Melbourne Cup triumph. Pic: AAP

Mr Sokolski part owns Verry Elleegant and second place-getter Incentivise with Ozzie and Victor Kheir and John O'Neill.

The 10-time Group One winner has been a mainstay of Mr Sokolski's thoroughbred team since arriving from New Zealand in 2018, and was transferred to Sydney-based trainer Waller's stable after Darren Weir was disqualified in early 2019.

with AAP

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