Owl ill luck adds to Europe's Cup lament

Click to follow
The Independent Online

On paper, the European challenge which went to post for the Melbourne Cup in the early hours of Tuesday morning was the strongest our continent has ever dispatched to the premier race in the southern hemisphere. As it turned out, though, the paper in question was as worthless as the thousands of betting tickets which littered the ring after the 14-1 success of Brew, and only James Fanshawe's Arctic Owl, who finished fifth, performed at anything like his best.

On paper, the European challenge which went to post for the Melbourne Cup in the early hours of Tuesday morning was the strongest our continent has ever dispatched to the premier race in the southern hemisphere. As it turned out, though, the paper in question was as worthless as the thousands of betting tickets which littered the ring after the 14-1 success of Brew, and only James Fanshawe's Arctic Owl, who finished fifth, performed at anything like his best.

Enzeli, the 1999 Ascot Gold Cup winner, was next best of the Europeans, finishing 15th of the 22 runners, with Godolphin's Lightning Arrow two places further back under Frankie Dettori. The Cup had all but been presented, meanwhile, by the time Far Cry, the runner-up in this year's Ascot Gold Cup, staggered over the line in 21st place.

Brew, who is trained in New Zealand by Michael Moroney, benefited from a typical southern hemisphere preparation for the big race, having won his previous outing at Flemington just three days earlier. He was drawn widest of all in stall 24, which local wisdom holds to be a difficult place to win from, but Kerrin McEvoy, having his first ride in the Cup, managed to find a trouble-free passage, and broke clear inside the final 200 metres to win by two lengths.

"It's the best feeling ever,'' McEvoy, who only recently rode out his apprentice's claim, said afterwards. "To win the Melbourne Cup on my first ride is unreal. I got in at the winning post the first time, I got cover and then he relaxed very well. I thought I was a big chance at the 400 metres, and he went straight and was full of running to the line.''

The race was a personal triumph for Moroney, who also saddled Second Coming, the third home. Yippiyio, a 10-1 chance, was second, with Kaapstad Way, the 9-2 favourite, back in fourth.

Arctic Owl was going as well as anything as the field rushed neared the home turn, but he was soon hampered and, in an instant, his chance had gone. This year's Cup was, by its own rough-house standards, a relatively sedate affair, so it was unfortunate for David Harrison that his mount had travelled so far simply to find the worst of what trouble there was.

"He would have finished closer if not for getting interfered with a couple of times,'' Harrison said. "I got stopped a bit in the straight and had to switch course.''

Fanshawe, whose Travelmate occupied the same fifth place in the race last year, must now attempt to break the sequence at the third attempt. "He was going nice and smooth down the back but was stopped on the bend,'' he said. "He ran a very good race but flattened out in the last 100 yards after losing his rhythm round the bend. I'd love to come back again, and you can't win it if you're not here.''

Godolphin too must look to next year as they plot to win a race which is high on Sheikh Mohammed's list of priorities. "We'll bring something different again next year,'' Saeed bin Suroor, who saddled Central Park to finish second in 1999, said. "It's a race we really want to win and we'll keep trying.''

Martin Pipe, on the other hand, will now return to Britain to concentrate on training jumpers. Far Cry, who started at 8-1, dropped away before the turn into the home straight and never threatened to reproduce the form which carried him within a length of Kayf Tara in the Gold Cup in June.

"There was a stall handler messing about near him at the gate, and he slipped and missed a stride as we jumped,'' Kevin Darley, Far Cry's jockey, said. "Once they picked up from the seven, we were gone.''

The relatively poor showing of the European runners served to highlight the achievement of Dermot Weld in saddling Vintage Crop to win the Melbourne Cup in 1993. Godolphin, who can crack most of racing's problems when they really put their minds to it, may now look for a similar sort of animal for the next quest for the Cup, although if the evidence of recent years is anything to go by, they should probably begin their search at the sales in New Zealand. Brew, by Sir Tristram out of the champion racemare Horlicks, was the fifth New Zealand-bred winner of the Melbourne Cup in the last six years. Breeders in the Antipodes may yet find some petro-dollars heading their way.

Comments