MELBOURNE • Another year, another Melbourne Cup thriller.
After Michelle Payne's triumph 12 months ago, the 2016 edition of the famous horse race had a lot to live up to, yet it did not disappoint as Almandin, piloted by Kerrin McEvoy, galloped to victory yesterday in one of the closest finishes in the Cup's 156-year history.
In a stirring ride down the home straight as the rain began to fall at Flemington Racecourse, the injury-prone gelding broke clear of Irish raider Heartbreak City, ridden by Brazilian Joao Moreira, with just metres to run in a thrilling finish. The effort gave owner Lloyd Williams his fifth Melbourne Cup win in the A$6.2 million (S$6.6 million) international race over 3,200m.
The official margins were a long head and 41/4 lengths.
It was another disappointing Cup outing for Godolphin, with pre-race favourite Hartnell settling for third and stable-mate Qewy running fourth, leaving Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed still searching for the prize he covets so much.
Hartnell's placing means just one favourite has won in the past 11 years - Fiorente in 2013.
For McEvoy, it was his second win, 16 years after his first, with Brew in 2000.
"I'm more nervous now than I was in the race," he said afterwards. "I feel very privileged to have won my second Melbourne Cup.
"It's a dream come true.
"I am very lucky to be on this horse. He was there the whole way, travelled great, what a buzz."
His wife Cathy Payne, whose sister Michelle became the first female jockey to win on Prince of Penzance in last year's Melbourne Cup, is due to give birth to the couple's fourth child and he thanked her for "putting up with me the last few weeks".
McEvoy thanked Williams for the faith shown in him before the owner congratulated his trainer Robert Hickmott, who also enjoyed Cup success with Green Moon in 2012.
"He's been with me for probably 15 years now," said Williams, who is rarely seen trackside but was on hand this time to watch his charge surge to victory.
"There is no better person as an employee of a racing stable.
"I'm a very, very difficult boss, I have to tell you. So he's gone through thick and thin with me. He's got this result today."
The win made Williams, 76, the founder of Melbourne's Crown Casino, the most successful owner following his previous successes with Just a Dash (1981), What a Nuisance (1985), Efficient (2007) and Green Moon (2012).
McEvoy, 36, said of Almandin: "He's had his troubles on his way, but he's been well handled by Lloyd."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE