Another chapter in Verry Elleegant’s outstanding career was written at Flemington on Tuesday as Chris Waller’s mighty mare took out the $7.75 million Lexus Melbourne Cup.
The Australian Horse of the Year brought up her 10th Group 1 in the ‘race that stops a nation’, but it was also an emotional result for champion hoop James McDonald.
After three decades of walking away empty-handed, the champion hoop finally added a Melbourne Cup to his astonishing resume on the back of a very successful Derby Day last Saturday.
The McDonald-Verry Elleegant combination will easily go down as one of the greatest in history, while the training efforts of Waller can’t be understated.
— Channel 10 (@Channel10AU) November 2, 2021
For a horse that was once known for over-racing, Waller has taken her to another level since she joined his yard from the Darren Weir stable in 2019.
Waller wasn’t trackside at Headquarters for the race, but his stable representative Jo Taylor said she had a very emotional conversation with the winning trainer.
“I really wish Chris could have been here today, he certainly deserves this one,” Taylor told Racing.com.
Verry Elleegant was deep into her spring prep having had four runs previously.
The six-year-old won her ninth Group 1 in the George Main over the mile at Randwick back in September and was seen doing her best work late in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate last time out for third.
Even so, the daughter of Zed was almost friendless in betting, starting at the $17.00 quote.
The wide gate and the firm surface largely explained the odds on offer, but Taylor said the team always thought she was a chance getting back to a wider track like Flemington.
“Her performance in the Cox Plate was fantastic. She was really tough, and we always thought that the Moonee Valley final turn could be a tricky spot for her, the other two horses were very good and just got a split on her, but she kept finding to the line,” Taylor said whilst fighting back tears.
The step up to 3200m was also a query, but with fitness on her side and the right ride from McDonald, it didn’t take long for Verry Elleegant’s class to shine through.
J-Mac chose to shuffle over and find cover from the wide draw, a key decision that helped his ride relax under the pressure.
The famous red and blue colours then loomed three-wide at the top of the straight, and with clear running room ahead, Verry Elleegant shifted through her gears with ease to put up a whopping four-length margin on the short-priced $2.90 favourite, Incentivise.
“I love her to bits. She’s been so good to me; I can safely say she is a champion now,” an emotional McDonald told Channel 10.
“She was relaxed the whole way. When I looked up about the 600m, I was blowing kisses to her the whole way. I can’t believe what’s just happened.”
McDonald and Verry Elleegant first came to be when they ran second at Flemington in the Group 3 Vanity Stakes two years ago.
McDonald said after Tuesday’s win that he “butchered” the ride that day, but it was quickly forgotten when they went on to win back-to-back Group 1’s in the Vinery Stud Stakes and ATC Oaks later in the autumn.
Despite the lack of international talent, this year’s Cup will no doubt be regarded highly.
A 10-time Group 1 winner, the reigning Caulfield Cup winner and one of the world’s top internationals all finished top three – a huge result for racing and the future of the Cup.
“You can see how far she’s come. She relaxed over 3200m and showed a dazzling turn of foot,” McDonald told Racing.com.
Like I said since Saturday, there’s not a nine-time Group 1 winner in that race, and I wouldn’t have thought there was a horse that could run third in a Cox Plate, so she’s got to be good”
Incentivise rolled forward out of the gates and looked like he wanted to lead before Brett Pebble chose to settle back and stalk the speed.
The three-time Group 1 winner had every chance coming out of the turn, and while he did fight back, he simply lacked the turn of foot to match that of Verry Elleegant.
Click here for the complete 2021 Melbourne Cup finishing order, courtesy of Ladbrokes.com.au.