Central's sortie fails in Cup's final flurry

The Melbourne Cup continued to resist every attempt to carry it off to Europe, despite Frankie Dettori riding one of the finest races of his life at Flemington Park in the early hours of yesterday. Dettori, riding the outsider Central Park for Godolphin, was beaten half a length into second place by Rogan Josh, and was left to wonder what Kayf Tara, his intended ride in the race, might have done to the best stayers Australia could muster.

The Melbourne Cup continued to resist every attempt to carry it off to Europe, despite Frankie Dettori riding one of the finest races of his life at Flemington Park in the early hours of yesterday. Dettori, riding the outsider Central Park for Godolphin, was beaten half a length into second place by Rogan Josh, and was left to wonder what Kayf Tara, his intended ride in the race, might have done to the best stayers Australia could muster.

Central Park, after all, only travelled to Melbourne to give Kayf Tara, last year's Ascot Gold Cup winner, a familiar galloping companion. When their principal challenger succumbed to a ligament injury, though, Central Park was promoted to carry the Godolphin silks in his place, and he did the royal blue colours immense credit.

On the book, his prospects were not good. A Group One winner over a mile, Central Park seemed to have little chance of staying twice that distance, particularly in a race usually run at a blistering pace. But that was before Dettori seized the initiative, took Central Park to the front as they left the straight for the first time, and then slowed the race down almost to a canter to conserve his stamina.

In behind, his rivals were tugging for their heads. Some may have considered taking him on, but Australian riders are famously reluctant to pull wide in the Cup, lest they get trapped in the middle of the course on the long sweep for home. As Dettori and Central Park hugged the rail, all manner of traffic problems developed in behind them. For many, the race was over long before the final stretch, and Central Park was still ahead at the furlong pole.

When Dettori asked his partner for a Group One winner's burst of finishing speed, though, Central Park had nothing left to give. Rogan Josh, the winner of the Mackinnon Stakes just three days earlier, drove up his outside and put his blinkered head in front with barely 100 yards to race. James Fanshawe's Travelmate, who set off as one of the favourites, was one and a half lengths away in fifth and might have finished closer had he not been involved in a barging match inside the final furlong. Mark Johnston, however, suffered another Melbourne Cup disappointment, as Yavana's Pace came in well down the field.

Dettori will ride many poorer races than this in his career and win easily. A measure of consolation, though, is the knowledge that it took a legend of the Australian turf to beat him. Bart Cummings, Rogan Josh's trainer, was winning the Cup for the 11th time in the last 34 years. "This may be my 11th, but you still have to win them and I feel so good," Cummings said. "I'm happy and relaxed and now I'll start looking for one for next year."

Godolphin will surely be doing the same. "I have spoken with Sheikh Mohammed, who likes to support the Melbourne Cup," Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin's trainer, said. "We have horses like Nedawi and Mutafaweq, and others we can look at to come and challenge next year."

FOSTER'S MELBOURNE CUP (Group One) Winner £677,122

1. ROGAN JOSH (J Marshall) 5-1

2. Central Park 50-1

3. dd-ht Lahar 140-1

3. dd-ht Zazabelle 50-1

Also: 7-2 favourite Sky Heights (17th), 9-1 Travelmate (5th), 30-1 Yavana's Pace (12th). 24 ran. 1/ 2, neck. (J B Cummings). Dividends: Aus$6.00; 2.10, 16.90, Lahar 11.20, Zazabelle 6.50. Quinella 291.10 (2-17). Exacta 408.90 (17-2). Trifecta 16,906.20 (17-2-12), 11,756,30 (17-2-24).

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