It was a last-minute decision by champion horse trainer Chris Waller to run his star mare Verry Elleegant in the 2021 Melbourne Cup – and it proved a decision that will go down in history.
In her biggest career win to date, Verry Elleegant (at long odds of $15) defeated short-priced favourite Incentivise ($2.80) by a commanding four lengths, as well as European import Spanish Mission ($10), securing Melbourne Cup glory at the famous Flemington course over 3200 metres.
It was also the first Cup victory for Waller, who has won a string of major races around Australia, as well as for New Zealand-born jockey James McDonald, who shares a special bond with the mare.
“I love her to bits. She’s been so good to me. They can safely say she’s a champion now,” he told Channel 10 after the race.
“She was relaxed the whole way. When I looked at the 600 (metres), I still just, just … I was blowing kisses to her the whole way. I don’t know. I just can’t believe what’s just happened.”
McDonald told Racing.com: “I saw Incentivise getting shoved along at the 500 metres mark, but I knew he would fight. I thought there is not a horse who will come from behind me; it was just a matter of catching him.”
The Melbourne Cup victory means that the star trainer has now won all three of the big Spring Carnival classics, thanks to Verry Elleegant’s Caulfield Cup win and Winx’s four Cox Plates.
All 23 horses finished the race, however Tralee Rose — who placed ninth — suffered a laceration on her left hind leg after being galloped on during the race. She has since been cleared by Racing Victoria vets at the U-Vet Equine Centre in Werribee.