Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare could have been bought at auction for $60,000. Picture: Mark Stewart
Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare could have been bought at auction for $60,000. Picture: Mark Stewart

Genetic tests showed Cup winner would be a star

The dream of breeding, training and owning a Melbourne Cup winner in Australia without having to spend a fortune overseas is alive after Vow And Declare repelled the raiders at Flemington on Tuesday.

International horses dominate the modern Cup and Vow And Declare is the first Australian-bred winner since Shocking in 2009.

He could have been bought at auction for just $60,000 (his earnings are now $5.4 million). Instead he failed to reach his reserve and was sold instead to family and friends of breeder Paul Lanskey.

The norm now is for an overseas trained horse to win the race (five of the last 10) or an import bought by Australian owners (three of the last 10).

Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare could have been bought at auction for $60,000. Picture: Mark Stewart
Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare could have been bought at auction for $60,000. Picture: Mark Stewart

Kiwi-bred Prince Of Penzance was the odd one out this decade until Vow And Declare joined him on Tuesday.

Craig Williams, in the process of completing the Grand Slam of Australian racing that was robbed of him eight years ago rode with precision to find a margin on the line from Master Of Reality (Ireland), Prince Of Arran (UK) and Il Paradiso (Ireland).

Il Paradiso was subsequently upgraded to third and Master Of Reality back to fourth after stewards upheld their own objection, but the spoils were left with Vow And Declare.

His trainer Danny O'Brien lurched through an arduous battle with authorities over a cobalt charge and ultimately emerged successful.

On Tuesday he capped the greatest day of his career.

"Everyone in the racing game has their ups and downs. The main thing is you keep persisting, keep working. Sometimes you have a bit of luck," he said.

 

Trainer Danny O’Brien and jockey Craig Williams celebrate with the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Picture: Jason Edwards
Trainer Danny O’Brien and jockey Craig Williams celebrate with the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Picture: Jason Edwards

"It's an amazing thing to happen. I really can't believe it. I feel incredibly blessed to have had a horse good enough to be in it. He was ridden so beautifully by Craig. The last 100m he wouldn't give in, wouldn't give in and put his head out on the line and now we've won the Melbourne Cup."

O'Brien had Vow And Declare genetically tested as a young horse, with the results suggesting conclusive evidence he would be a horse that excelled at distances beyond 2800m.

Armed with that intelligence, O'Brien opted to campaign in Queensland this winter, running second in the Queensland Derby before trouncing older horses in the 3000m Tattersall's Cup at his next start.

 

Genetic testing showed Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare would excel at distances beyond 2800m. Picture: Jason Edwards
Genetic testing showed Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare would excel at distances beyond 2800m. Picture: Jason Edwards

"He's certainly a horse we think is a potential Melbourne Cup horse," O'Brien said that day.

Three-time Cup winning jockey Glen Boss rode him that day and also gave the tick of approval.

"He's got a great set of lungs," Boss said. "That was very soft. You don't know quite where the ceiling is."

Connections discovered where the ceiling was on Tuesday, with Vow And Declare somehow finding a margin on the line despite being under siege for most of the straight.

"It doesn't get much better than this. It was a race which wasn't going to plan. To be fair to Craig he grabbed the bull by the horns early when nothing went forward," O'Brien said.

"He ended up in front by the post. With 100m to go I thought you've led early and three are on you now. I was hoping he'd hang on for a place to be honest. He's a courageous horse, he's got great stamina. I'm sure he was headed but wanted to get his head out on the line."

"He's definitely got a great motor. His recovery is the best we've seen.

"To get full advantage of that you probably need to run 3200m. We got outsprinted in the Caulfield Cup but the stamina won it for us today."



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