Young princes take charge in the sport of kings

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Corey Brown on Cup winner Rekindling.

By AMELIA LIM

Fans of equal favourites Almandin and Marmelo were left heartbroken yesterday when the Joseph O’Brien-trained Rekindling  surpassed the field to clinch a surprise victory in the Emirates Melbourne Cup.

The British-bred stallion, ridden by Corey Brown, was not only the youngest in the field at four years of age, but it was also his first start over 3200m, though he had showed off his staying form in races such as the Curragh Cup (2800m) in July.

Aside from leaving Brown “speechless”, the startling win added another Melbourne Cup to the 41-year-old’s prolific career, after Brown’s win aboard Shocking in 2009.

The humble hoop insisted that this win was different.

“This time round it seems so much more surreal … five or six weeks ago, we (Brown and his manager) did our forms on the horses we knew were different and getting the run, and his credentials stood out and so I put my heart on it,” Brown said post-race.

“I was a little bit concerned at the first furlong of the race as there was more speed than I thought there was going to be and I was hoping to be a bit closer, but I just let the horse relax.

“Once we got out to the back in the 1200m, there was a bit of a confusion in front of us then Max Dynamite squeezed hard against the fence and he got through the trouble, and from that moment on he was just happy to go and was always settling well.

“I was quietly confident, but you can never be confident in the Melbourne Cup, but I was travelling very well.”

Rekindling had a cushy run beside the rails, settling off the speed, in the middle of the field throughout the race, but was caught deep at the final turn. When a gap appeared at the home turn, Brown leapt at the opportunity and guided the bay horse through the pack.

The race seemed to be over when Rekindling’s stablemate Johannes Vermeer (Ben Melham) put up a strong fight in the lead at the final furlong, with Max Dynamite (Zac Purton) in hot pursuit.

However, in the final 200m Brown, sensing that the sweet taste of Melbourne Cup victory might soon be in his hands, pulled the whip on Rekindling and rode hands and heels, inching past Johannes Vermeer in the final few metres to deny the O’Brien senior-trained horse by a long neck. Max Dynamite finished third another 2.9 lengths away.

It was a remarkable dad-and-son quinella. Rekindling gave O’Brien junior his first Melbourne Cup at his very first start, making the 24-year-old – just a year into his new career – the youngest trainer to win one of the world’s richest handicap races.

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A triumphant Lloyd Williams and winning trainer Joseph O’Brien.

It was a feat which winning owner Lloyd Williams dubbed as “extraordinary” and “close to being able to walk on water”.

The Melbourne Cup win was a first for the O’Brien family, even for dad Aidan O’Brien, a top handler who has saddled more than 300 Group One winners worldwide in his 24-year career.

It was understandable that the win was a shock for Joseph.

“I can’t believe it … I’ve been very lucky to have some nice horses, he’s had a good year and to cap it off today is unbelievable,” the Irishman told Channel 7.

“Corey gave him an unbelievable ride and I’m just so delighted for all the lads at home, and all the lads here with him have done a good job.”

He said that no one should be fooled by Rekindling’s stature, as what the horse lacked physically he made up with grit and talent.

The successful raid by Rekindling and his connections was an even sweeter moment for Williams, as this year’s Melbourne Cup win was also his sixth. The only person with more Cup wins is legendary trainer Bart Cummings, who had 12.

Williams, who had six runners in the race this year, said he had been “obsessed” with the $6 million Group 1 race ever since he was eight, and joked that he would need a “magic potion” to live long enough to be able to catch up with Cummings’ record.

With this fourth win from 10 starts, Rekindling has amassed $3,600,000 in prizemoney in Australia for his connections.  

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A super horse.