New Zealand-bred star Verry Elleegant has again confirmed her champion status, cruising to victory in the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on Tuesday by a stunning four lengths.
The Chris Waller-trained mare landed her tenth Group One victory under a gun James McDonald ride, with the pair a match made in heaven.
The class horse of the field, Verry Elleegant lumped 57kgs in the famed handicap and overcame a wide barrier in 19, relishing racing three-wide and tracking key hope Spanish Mission.
Favourite Incentivise hit the front with 400m to run, but Verry Elleegant soon had his measure, charging away with the win, with Spanish Mission finishing third.
A six-year-old daughter of Grangewilliam Stud stallion Zed, who commenced her career in New Zealand, Verry Elleegant recorded a slick 3:17.43 for the two miles.
Champion jockey James McDonald was overcome with emotion as he crossed the line to win his first Melbourne Cup on a mare that has been a big part of his push to the top of Australian racing.
“I love her to bits. She has been so good to me. I can safely say she is a champion now isn’t she? She knows,” McDonald said.
“She was relaxed the whole way. I can’t believe what has just happened. I never thought I would ever win one. I’ve always dreamed of winning a Melbourne Cup but they are so hard to win. Dreams do come true when you’re piloting superstars.
“I’ve been saying from Saturday onwards, her fight and determination just takes her so far.”
McDonald praised the talents of fellow Kiwi Chris Waller, who has been champion Sydney trainer every year since season 2010/11.
“He just goes through his processes and makes sure every box is ticked. It is why he is as good as he is. I am so lucky to be in his team. We have a lot of luck together and we know each other so well,” McDonald said.
Originally from Cambridge, McDonald was champion jockey in New Zealand before relocating across the Tasman where he has continued his dominance.
“I wish COVID wasn’t on because my parents would be here from New Zealand. My brother, he’d be watching and I just wish they were here,” he said.
“I’ll be bombarded from back home with all of the support. They will just be elated. I have a huge fan base (in New Zealand) and I’m very lucky to have it.”
For Himatangi-raised Waller, it was his first Melbourne Cup triumph, and he watched the victory from his lounge room in Sydney along with wife Steph and kids Tyler and Nikita.
Waller decided against travelling to Melbourne due to COVID restrictions which would have required him to isolate for five days upon returning to Sydney under Racing NSW protocols.
“Racing is such an amazing sport, which brings everyone together on the greatest day,” Waller told Chanel 10.
“We’re the lucky ones that get to work with these great horses and seeing them come home safe and at the front of the field safe is pretty special.
“There is so much that goes on week-in, week-out. People don’t really understand what goes into these great horses and great races. This is a very special reward.”
Waller’s first memory of the Cup was Kiwi winning in 1982 when he watched the race back home in New Zealand as an eight-year-old. The horse hailed from Waverley in New Zealand, just down the road from where the star horseman grew up.
“They will be very proud back in New Zealand, that’s for sure,” Waller said.
“To have a New Zealand horse, New Zealand jockey, New Zealand trainer with a New Zealand wife, it would be very special.”
Much of New Zealand was celebrating the Cup triumph, including Verry Elleegant’s breeder and part-owner Don Goodwin, who watched on from Auckland, as did her original trainer Nick Bishara, for whom the mare won two of her first three starts before her partial sale across the Tasman.
Bishara, Goodwin and a host of fellow Kiwis continue to share in the ownership of the star mare, who is raced by a trans-Tasman syndicate.
There were also wild scenes of jubilation from a gathering at the Corcoran family’s Grangewilliam Stud in Waitotara, South Taranaki, where Verry Elleegant was born and raised and where her hitherto unheralded sire Zed stands.
Like another famous graduate of Grangewilliam Stud, 1995 Caulfield and Melbourne Cup winner Doreimus, Verry Elleegant has now claimed the two feature Cups and advanced her career earnings to A$14.3 million in prizemoney. – NZ Racing Desk