Marshall feasts on Cup glory
Former Hong Kong jockey John Marshall and Rogan Josh gave trainer Bart Cummings his 11th Melbourne Cup success yesterday and completed one of the great fairytale stories from a race that has captivated Australia for 139 years.
Sharing the glory with Cummings and Marshall in the Flemington sunshine was mother-of-six schoolteacher Wendy Green, who co-owns the winner.
She twice drove from Darwin in the far north of the country to Melbourne in the past month to see Rogan Josh run and win.
Thanks to the expertise of Cummings and a superb ride from Marshall, Mrs Green, who has this one seven-year-old gelding in training, beat the world's biggest owner, Sheik Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose Frankie Dettori-ridden 60-1 chance, Central Park, ran second in the 3,200-metre showstopper.
There was a dead-heat for third between the Cummings-trained Zazabelle, and Lahar with the David Harrison-ridden Travelmate coming in next just a length and a half from the winner.
There were 104,500 on the sundrenched course which was the largest attendance in exactly 50 years.
But it was one of the roughest races in the long history of the Cup and chief steward Des Gleeson did not close a subsequent inquiry until over two hours after the last race.
Harrison was involved in a probe into The Hind almost coming down in the straight, one of five jockeys giving evidence. New Zealand jockey Gary Grylls, who rode The Warrior, was suspended for four weeks.
Said Harrison: 'It was like being in the ring with Tyson and Holyfield at the same time. It's the roughest race I have ever ridden in. Travelmate is only a small horse and we were unbalanced in the straight when one came in on me. There was a lot of scrimmaging but I just held my ground.' Chief sufferer The Hind, trained by Peter Hayes, was ridden by Jim Cassidy who said: 'I almost came down and that was just the last part of it. I have never been in a rougher race that I can remember and when Rogan Josh was outside me, I still had a lapful of horse.
'I was carved up, otherwise I reckon we would just about have won it.' Favourite Sky Heights, who had looked vulnerable to Rogan Josh on their Caulfield Cup running, finished 17th but top jockey Damien Oliver said: 'We hit the rail five times. I drew the No 1 barrier but it just was not the place to be this year.' Irish jockey Richard Hughes, who has done well in both flat and jump racing and rode Yavana's Pace here, joked: 'It was a bit like riding in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. It was rough. The only difference was the pace - it was faster at Cheltenham.' When Dettori stacked them up behind by slowing the pace right down, over half the field was pulling and jostling behind him.
But Marshall stayed clear of all trouble to chalk up the biggest win of a success-strewn career.
The former Sydney champion has now ridden three Group One winners in the space of a month and is eyeing the Hong Kong International Races with Allez Suez, also trained by Cummings.
'It's been absolutely fantastic. Everyone who is involved in racing knows what it means to win the Melbourne Cup and I suppose this was really my chance.
'But it comes down to Bart. He is a genius with horses and he knew before the Mackinnon that this was the one who could pull it off.' All the diligent pre-race preparation, which involved several hours of watching videos, paid off as Marshall got Rogan Josh across well from the outside draw of 21.
There were still some anxious moments as he was racing without cover early but slotted in going out of the straight the first time. He raced with generosity for Marshall from that point on.
Coming into the straight, Marshall waited as others moved. He said: 'It's a long straight at Flemington and I found that out the hard way years ago. They came to me and a couple went past me.
'Central Park was going all right but no more and I was certain when it came to a battle, we would have it. He is a real battler, this fellow.' For Dettori, it was almost the most sensational result of his fantastic career.
'Central Park ran terrific because I was able to settle him,' he said. 'It had to be that way or we would not have got the trip. But it was a real crawl in the middle.' Treat for owner - Page 31