Vow And Declare foiled the strong British and Irish challenge to win the Lexus Melbourne Cup in a tight finish at Flemington.
Trained by Danny O’Brien and ridden by Craig Williams, Vow And Declare dug deep in the two-mile prize to fend off the Joseph O’Brien-trained Master Of Reality and Frankie Dettori.
However, following interference in the closing stages, Dettori’s mount was demoted to fourth, with Charlie Fellowes’ Prince Of Arran promoted to second and Aidan O’Brien’s Il Paradiso, who had his run significantly impeded, boosted to third.
Dettori raced prominently aboard Master Of Reality as his stablemate Twilight Payment set some of the early pace, with Vow And Declare also towards the fore, with Williams taking a position on the rail.
Master Of Reality was first to strike for home at the top of the straight and Dettori stole a couple of lengths advantage, but with a furlong and a half to go, Vow And Declare just edged in front.
However, Dettori’s mount found more for pressure, with Prince Of Arran charging down his outside and Il Paradiso trying to weave his way through between the winner and Master Of Reality.
The trio got tight for space in the shadow of the post, with Master Of Reality drifting across the track and squeezing the Wayne Lordan-ridden Il Paradiso squeezed for room, prompting a stewards’ inquiry and the eventual amended result.
Prince Of Arran finished third last year and Fellowes was delighted with his effort again, after a campaign that also saw him win the Geelong Cup last time.
He told www.racing.com: “I’m incredibly proud of the horse. To do what he has done two years in a row is a remarkable achievement and it’s a remarkable achievement for Tash (Eaton) who looks after him, for all the yard at home, who put in a huge amount of hard work and effort.
“For him to come out here and run as consistently as he does – I don’t think he’s finished outside the first three – is amazing.
“We were close today and I thought for a very brief second we had it. I think he does just hit the front – he’s run brilliant.
“We’ve just been invited to run in the Japan Cup and there’s also a race in Hong Kong, the Vase, that we’ve got in mind, so I just need to have a little think and decide where we go.
“To be honest, all roads lead back here next year – that’s where we want to come.”
Joseph O’Brien won the 2017 Melbourne Cup with Rekindling and he was thrilled with Master Of Reality’s run.
Speaking before the placings were altered, O’Brien said: “The horse ran a fantastic race. Frankie gave him a perfect ride and that’s horse racing – some days you win and some days you lose.
“Obviously we’re gutted, but we’re looking forward to next year.
“It was a fantastic horse race, the horse ran a blinder and Frankie gave him a perfect ride. I’m gutted for Frankie as well, I’m delighted the horse ran so well, but it’s mixed emotions.”
Charlie Appleby’s Cross Counter became the first British-trained winner last year, but had to settle for eighth under top weight this time.
Aidan O’Brien also saddled Magic Wand (10th) and Hunting Horn (15th) while Twilight Payment (11th), Latrobe (18th) and Downdraft (22nd) all finished down the field for Joseph O’Brien.
Richard Hannon’s Raymond Tusk was 16th, with Ger Lyons’ Ebor winner Mustajeer finishing 23rd of the 24 runners for new trainer Kris Lees.
It was a first Melbourne Cup win for Williams and he paid tribute to his family and the entire team.
Williams said: “It’s been great to be associated with a great horse like this. I’m so grateful to be given the opportunity.
“I have to thank everyone around me who has touched my life throughout my career, that’s given me advice, confidence – they’re all a part of this win so I hope they all enjoy it.
“I’m going to really enjoy this.”
O’Brien added: “It doesn’t get much better.
“It was a race which wasn’t going to plan, but to be fair to Craig, he grabbed the bull by the horns when nothing else went forward and ended up in front as they passed the post (the first time) and that’s probably been the winning move.
“Inside the 100 (final half-furlong), I thought ‘you led past the post the first time and three are on you now’, I was hoping he would hold on for a place to be honest.
“He’s a courageous horse, he’s got great stamina. I’m sure he was headed and he just found some more to get his head in front on the line.”