Dunaden foils Red Run in the Melbourne Cup
Tuesday 01 November 2011
A first ever British victory in the Emirates Melbourne Cup was prevented by the narrowest possible margin once again as Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux succumbed to well-fancied French stayer Dunaden.
There were gasps from the huge Flemington crowd as they scrutinised the photo-finish frame, which appeared to show the two horses to be passing the line in unison, and it took several minutes until the judges declared it to be second consecutive French winner after Americain a year ago.
Just as Luca Cumani's Bauer lost out by a nose in 2008, the same margin applied here, but while there was sympathy for Dunlop, the man who experienced the greatest loss was jockey Craig Williams.
Williams was used by trainer Mikel Delzangles to partner Dunaden (15-2) when he won his prep-race in the Geelong Cup but picked up a careless riding ban this week which he continued to appeal against until Monday.
Owner Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani, the Qatari behind the Qipco British Champions series, decided to fly the top French jockey Christophe Lemaire over after a commitment in Japan in any event - despite the fact he had no experience of Australian racing.
But Lemaire is no overnight hero, having risen to the top echelon of jockeys by virtue of successes all over the world and he was up to the challenge of the 151st running of the 'race that stops a nation'.
Any number held chances as the field rounded final the bend and both Red Cadeaux and Dunaden opted for the slingshot approach around the outside as they powered past the likes of German-bred Lucas Cranach (third) and Cumani's Manighar (fifth) deep inside the final furlong.
Although Red Cadeaux and Michael Rodd had the edge over Dunaden as they were making rapid progress, Dunaden forced his way past when it mattered.
Americain himself made stunning headway from a mile back for fourth.
"I was a bit anxious after the line," Lemaire admitted. "A rider on a pony told me they thought I had won and then when I turned the corner back towards the stands, everyone was applauding me.
"I wasn't supposed to ride him and didn't know until yesterday. Craig must be devastated and I hope he recovers quickly and that he will win many more big races.
"Two years ago I had a fall before Arc weekend and I missed winning four Group One races so I know what it is like to watch in your armchair. Unfortunately it's part of a jockey's life."
Dunlop had no real bitterness as he surveyed Red Cadeaux.
"I thought he wouldn't like the ground and with a little more juice he'd have beaten the other horse," he said.
"I was watching it with Luca Cumani and he thought I'd won but the best I thought we'd got would have been a dead heat.
"You don't like to be second but I've come all the way down here for the first time so you have to be delighted and it has been a great experience.
"If he's OK, we'll be back next year."
Rodd added: "I would have preferred to have been beaten by half a length than like that, but he's run really well."
Like his owner, Delzangles will be an increasing presence in the sport.
The trainer branched out on his own a decade ago following a spell as assistant to Alain de Royer-Dupre and won his first British Classic with Makfi last year.
After receiving Dunaden when Richard Gibson moved to Hong Kong, Delzangles followed his mentor's example, who ran Americain in the Geelong Cup before the big one.
"It's amazing. I thought I was beaten so it's even better," he said.
"We knew he was a good stayer, but I thought the race was so difficult to win. Maybe thanks to Americain last year, it made us realise that it was possible to do it.
"We were just beaten in a Group Two at Longchamp (in May), then we decided then that we should look at the Melbourne Cup.
"I would like to have a thought for Craig Williams. He did a great job in preparation for the horse and he has been a gentleman."
Sheikh Fahad added: "This is one of the biggest races in the world and we want to compete at the top level, but my operation is all about the horse and finding which race is the best for him.
"He had the right profile for the race and he showed that today.
"I said Melbourne Cup this year and Gold Cup next year, but why not do both (next year)?
"The Melbourne Cup is a handicap and we wanted to preserve his handicap mark. Even so, I think he would have gone close in the Gold Cup. "
You must really appreciate getting these chances in life, I hope the luck continues."
Lemaire later said he ranked the win second only to Divine Proportions in the Prix de Diane, when his family were present.
"Of course I have heard of the Melbourne Cup before, but the atmosphere and the passion here, it is really something special," he said.
Jockey Gerald Mosse thought the favourite Americain had perhaps paid the price for being saddled with an extra 3.5 kg this time.
He reflected: "I would say the ground was a bit fast for him, as well as the weight.
"I was never really comfortable and he didn't travel through the race as well as he can, but he always tries his best.
"The weight was maybe too much."
Cumani's other runner Drunken Sailor was 12th, but ironically he was reflecting on another poor twist of fate for Bauer.
The grey was balloted out of the race at the final declaration stage and as Mourayan was withdrawn on Tuesday morning, he would have earned a start if a reserve system was in operation.
He said: "If Bauer had been in the field, he would have been close on his Geelong form (when third).
"If we can send a man to the moon we should be able to get an emergency in the Melbourne Cup.
"Manighar galloped all the way to the line but Drunken Sailor didn't seem to get home."
Saeed bin Suroor also fielded two in the race with Lost In The Moment finishing sixth and Modun a lacklustre last of the 23 runners.
"Lost In The Moment ran well. For a second I thought he might be getting there but it didn't quite happen," he said.
"I'm disappointed with Modun. He was too keen and didn't stay the trip."
Mark Johnston's Fox Hunt was seventh with his other runner Jukebox Jury finishing 20th.
The former's jockey Silvestre de Sousa said: "He has had a long season and felt a bit flat."
Brian Ellison was another British trainer to be double-handed but Moyenne Corniche and Saptapadi could muster no better than 15th and 16th respectively.
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