The youngest trainer saddled up the youngest horse in the 2017 Melbourne Cup and Joseph O’Brien was triumphant with Rekindling for veteran owner Lloyd Williams’ sixth victory, while Hong Kong-based jockey Zac Purton had to make do with a teasing third.
Williams has sunk vast fortunes into pursuing Cup victory over almost 40 years but won his fifth Cup last year with Almandin and this time quinellaed the great race with Rekindling, trained by 24-year-old Joseph O’Brien, and Johannes Vermeer, trained by Joseph’s father, Aidan.
The Cup was an anticlimax for Joao Moreira, who fell in a minor race two hours earlier when his mount clipped heels at the top of the straight and crashed.
Moreira was treated on the track before walking to the ambulance unassisted but had a noticeable limp and was clearly feeling the fall.
On return to the jockeys’ room, however, Moreira was stood down from his remaining mounts, including Thomas Hobson in the Melbourne Cup.
Star Ben Allen, just 18 years old, was called on as Moreira’s last-minute replacement in the Cup on Thomas Hobson and steered the Willie Mullins-trained stayer into sixth.
While Moreira missed out altogether, Purton at least got a thrill aboard Mullins-trained Max Dynamite, as he surged into contention nearing the home straight after a perfect run through the race.
Max Dynamite was probing for runs between horses at the 400m mark as the first three placegetters all made moves at a similar time and the winner came away from following Purton’s mount for much of the race to launch his bid. Max Dynamite took a narrow gap to go up on the inside of Johannes Vermeer but, after getting within range, he was unable to get past him and boxed on to finish third for Purton’s best Melbourne Cup finish yet.
“It was an excellent run, very brave,” Purton said. “He took the tight run when I asked him to and I thought, when he got through there, he’d really fight but it was a terrific effort anyway.”
The task of running down Johannes Vermeer then fell to lightweight Rekindling, who gave jockey Corey Brown his second Melbourne Cup win and the three-year-old by Northern Hemisphere time was also the first of that age to win the Cup for 76 years.
Brown, who won the race eight years ago on Shocking, had been struggling to gain real traction again in Sydney during the last nine months after spending some time riding in Singapore but had pitched his name to Williams for the Cup ride as he knew he would be one of the few top jockeys able to make the weight.
“I can’t believe it. I have been back here from overseas about nine months and slowly and surely getting back to where I was,” Brown said. “It is so special. I have my family with me and the girls are old enough to come to the races and enjoy it. I am lost for words.”
Aidan O’Brien was not on hand for the Cup as he had gone to Barbados following the weekend’s Breeders’ Cup in the United States but was quickly on the phone to congratulate his son, while Williams spent part of his trophy acceptance speech warning that Joseph might one day be a threat to his father, who broke the world Group One-winning record this year.
Moreira’s injuries from the fall were diagnosed as soft tissue damage to his right thigh and left calf muscle and the Brazilian has told Hong Kong Jockey Club officials he feels he will be able to fulfil his engagements at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Chief steward Kim Kelly said that Moreira must undergo a medical examination on his return to Hong Kong first, though, and the club has taken the precaution of booking standby riders for his mounts as follows: Gold Velvet (Sam Clipperton), Polymer Luck and Wonderful Fighter (Chad Schofield), Ever Strong (Matthew Chadwick), Sam’s Love (Alexis Badel), Bank On Red (Umberto Rispoli), House Of Fun (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu).