Crop denied another Cup harvest

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Amid talk of an "irregular" pre-race drugs swab, Double Trigger's attempt to bring the Melbourne Cup to the northern hemisphere for the second time in three years ended in bitter disappointment yesterday, writes Greg Wood.

Mark Johnston's stayer, winner of the Ascot Gold Cup in June, was sent off the 7-2 favourite by a huge crowd at Flemington Park but faded tamely into 17th in a 21-runner field after tracking a strong early pace. The winner was Doriemus, a 10-1 chance, while Vintage Crop, who won the race for Ireland two years ago, finished strongly into third after finding trouble in running.

Before the race, Australian television reported that Double Trigger had returned an "irregular swab", but the local stewards allowed him to take his place in the stalls after an assurance from his trainer that the colt was well. "I can't explain it," Johnston said. "The stewards also took a post-race sample from him and told me at this stage not to be too concerned. I told them I had given him nothing beforehand." The result from the second sample will not be known for a week.

Jason Weaver, Double Trigger's jockey, could offer no explanation for his poor run. "I am very disappointed," he said. "The horse was never comfortable in the race and from 1600 metres out there was no petrol in the tank. Maybe he has had a long year."

On Doriemus, by contrast, Damien Oliver rode an immensely confident race, held up in the early stages from his wide draw, but making rapid progress in the stretch to lead a furlong from home. He quickly went clear to beat Nothin' Leica Dame, at 20-1, by four lengths. Vintage Crop (8-1) and Quick Ransom (20-1), formerly a very successful resident of Johnston's yard, filled the minor places.

Lee Freedman, Doriemus's trainer, was winning the Cup for the third time, but while he celebrated, Dermot Weld, trainer of Vintage Crop, could only reflect on his runner's misfortune. Vintage Crop was last after a furlong, but came with a brilliant run under Mick Kinane in the final two furlongs to take third. "He was taken out after 50 yards and then stopped again with seven furlongs to run," Weld said. "That left him with an impossible task in such soft ground but he has run a great race none the less. I would say that he was the same horse here as on the day he won the race back in 1993.''

Oliver dedicated the success to his father, killed in a fall in a race when his son was just three years old. "My only regret is that my father isn't here to share this special moment," Oliver said. "The last 200 metres were the longest of my life, but it is a dream come true for me to win the race. Lee Freedman can be a hard taskmaster, but that's what I need at times.''

Freedman's post-race comments were simple and direct. "Great horse, great ride, great effort," he said. "This is the biggest thrill of my career."