MELBOURNE • Twilight Payment led from start to finish to claim the A$8 million (S$7.75 million) Melbourne Cup in a stunning run yesterday, but the victory was soured by the death of last year’s Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck.
Eight-year-old gelding Twilight Payment held off runner-up Tiger Moth and a late charge from Prince of Arran to deliver jockey Jye McNeil a dream debut, in “the race that stops the nation” at Flemington Racecourse that was closed off to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Joseph O’Brien, son of famed Irish trainer Aidan, claimed his second Melbourne Cup win, having prepared Twilight Payment, a 22-1 chance, three years after Rekindling won the 2017 race by edging out his father’s Johannes Vermeer.
Twilight Payment’s win also secured local owner Lloyd Williams a seventh Melbourne Cup triumph.
“Too many emotions. It’s a very big moment,” said McNeil.
“(My wife) Jess and the boy will hopefully be watching from home. They couldn’t be here today but I’m sure they will be very proud.”
Few horses go the distance in the race when jumping out early but McNeil said it was always the plan.
“I was confident. I was trying not to use the whip too many times,” he said. “I was trying to use my voice to encourage him as much as possible and it was a matter of hanging on, and he was very tough.”
Five years after Michelle Payne became the first woman to ride a Melbourne Cup winner on rank outsider Prince of Penzance, Jamie Kah, the only female jockey in the race, rode to third place on Prince of Arran.
Surprise Baby, trained by Paul Preusker, was an 11-2 pre-race favourite but finished 13th, while King of Leogrance was scratched in the morning after being found lame by stewards, leaving a field of 23.
It was, however, a sombre day for race organisers and the connections of Anthony Van Dyck, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained horse put down after breaking down late in the race.
The five-year-old stallion, runner-up at last month’s A$5 million Caulfield Cup, carried the top weight of 58.5kg on a hot afternoon at Flemington.
A racehorse dies every three days on Australian racetracks. The only difference is on Melbourne Cup day, the whole country is watching.
“It is with sadness that we confirm that Anthony Van Dyck had to be humanely euthanised after sustaining a fractured fetlock during the running of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington,” Racing Victoria’s integrity chief Jamie Stier said.
“The horse received immediate veterinary care, however, he was unable to be saved due to the nature of the injury sustained.”
Van Dyck’s death came two years after Aidan O’Brien’s The Cliffs of Moher pulled up lame in the 2018 race and was put down on the track after vets found the horse had broken a shoulder.
It is likely to heap further pressure on an industry rocked by a slew of horse deaths during recent Melbourne Cup carnivals, with animal activists lashing out on social media.
“His final moments would have been so painful and terrifying,” Animals Australia said.
“No animal deserves to suffer like this for gambling money … RIP Anthony Van Dyck.”