Can you be an animal activist and still support horse racing? In short, yes.
Vow And Declare has taken out of the most incredible Melbourne Cup finishes in recent memory, leading home a four-horse pack by barely half a nose to take the race that stops the nation.
With a post-race protest throwing a spanner in the works for multis and trifectas everywhere, there were plenty of tales to come from the 2019 edition of the Cup.
Here are some of the winners and losers from the famous race.
Veteran jockey Craig Williams is one of Australia’s finest riders, having been around every track you could think of for more than two decades.
Williams was heart-breakingly banned prior to the 2011 Melbourne Cup and removed from riding Dunaden. That horse would go on to win the Cup with his last-minute replacement taking the glory.
As each year went on, his chances looked slimmer and slimmer.
Ups and downs have been aplenty throughout his career, but finally after 26 years since his first ride, 13,596 starts, 1786 wins, of which 52 came in Group 1s, and 14 prior attempts at the famed Cup, Craig Williams has finally won the race that matters most.
He now has his hands on one of Australian racing’s rarest achievements for jockeys, the grand slam, winning the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Golden Slipper and Cox Plate. He’s just the eighth jockey to achieve the feat.
If you took one look at the field before the Cup, you’d be laughed at for thinking anything other than an international-bred winner was on the cards. Only two runners in the 24-strong field were bred in Australia.
While there were more trained here, Vow And Declare held the unmatched point of being the only Australian bred, trained, owned and ridden horse in the 2019 Cup.
While the sheer number of overseas runners and international interest is a huge plus for the prestige and global impact of the race, it seems the Australian racing industry refuses to let the Cup leave their grasp anytime soon.
A beautiful day can make the Cup. A rainy day can ruin it.
The typically eclectic Melbourne weather behaved itself for the first Tuesday in November, making it a wonderful day for the Flemington crowd, and for those watching on TV.
Track conditions were as simple as they could be in the leadup and throughout the day leading into the big race.
The racecourse spends countless hours, days and weeks perfecting the surface, creating and maintaining one of the best tracks on the planet. They delivered.
No talk about poor conditions underfoot, no talk about rail positioning or grass length, and no talk of the track means they’ve done their job.
The (cursed) Cup double
It’s one of the rarest and most prestigious achievements for a thoroughbred, not only in Australia but the world of racing: to win the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup in the same year. It’s happened just 11 times in 140 years of the two races running together.
What is often hailed as the ultimate lead-up race at Caulfield has been incredibly sparse for winners when they come to Flemington to back it up.
The last runner to take the Cup double was Ethereal back in 2001.
Unfortunately for Mer De Glace, the curse continues after one of the heavy pre-race favourites struggled to make up galloping room late in the race to finish out of the placings completely.
Eighteen years now since the last Cup double is one of the longest gaps between the feat happening in history, with the prospect of the Caulfield Cup winner now becoming somewhat of a curse for the second leg.
The curse continues for another year, how much longer will it go?
Master Of Reality
Italian jockey Frankie Dettori rode a sensational race on board Master Of Reality, finding his way towards the front of the field for much of the distance.
Where others may have fallen away when the field came around the final turn onto the last stretch, Dettori guided the five-year-old gelding through the storm to go neck-and-neck with eventual winner Vow And Declare.
After all the effort to hang on and contend, he was painfully piped at the post by a nose in the end, but that’s not where the pain would end.
A post-race protest from the stewards then saw Dettori and Master Of Reality relegated from second to fourth, with the former then copping a suspension for bumping with Il Paradiso on the home stretch.
The stewards ruled he had impeded Il Paradiso’s run towards the line.
To add one more jab, dropping to fourth means the connections go from a $1.1 million payday to $350,000 in prizemoney.
Finche. Mer De Glace. Constantinople. Even defending champion Cross Counter.
The first three were the shortest-priced favourites leading into the race. None of them found a top-four finish.
It made for a nightmare for pundits who were already having a hard time picking from a dense field of strong chances.
In such a large field, favourites are never guaranteed to win, but for none of them to even get a place just to comfort those on an each-way or a safer place bet? It’s a brutal result.