James Mcdonald riding Verry Elleegant to Melbourne Cup Victory
The 2021 Melbourne Cup was the 161st edition of the race that stops a nation. Run on the first Tuesday of November over a distance of 3200m, punters flock from all over the world to compete, watch and be a part of the most prestigious race in Australia.
In 2021, after a few years of international raiders coming over and taking the Melbourne Cup back to the Northern Hemisphere, it was widely expected that Australia had their best chance at retaining the title with a number of key runners looking to log big performances.
The Build Up To The 2021 Melbourne Cup
When we roll back our minds to a year ago, racing as a whole was in a completely different place. The world was just waking up from the Global Covid Pandemic, and racing had been paused and restarted several times during the year.
As we hit the Spring Carnival in 2021, crowds had been limited, and a number of key international stables had ruled out their involvement due to the complex travel restrictions. The Melbourne Cup was limited to just 10,000 entrants, and while it was good to see crowds back at Flemington Racecourse it wasn’t the usual full-throttle atmosphere that 6 or 7 times that amount of people can provide.
There were also the changes in protocol that had impacted international runners in 2021, with the Melbourne Cup seeing a number of injuries the year prior that Racing Victoria was keen to avoid happening again.
Before being allowed to compete in the 2021 Melbourne Cup, international raiders had to undergo vigorous medical checks as well as an extended quarantine period. Add to this the fact that travelling stable connections would have to quarantine due to Covid restrictions, it led to an all-time low in International participation in the Melbourne Cup.
Despite the low engagement from the world stage, there was increased interest from local trainers, with a number of stables showing strong hands for the race. Added to the fact the prize pool for the 2021 Melbourne Cup had been increased to $8m, Australia were sending out their finest to bat.
There were a number of tried and tested runners coming back for a second crack at the Melbourne Cup, however; a number of runners were emerging as real talents and the ones to watch in the build up to the race that stops a nation.
Melbourne Cup 2021 Key Chances
Despite the Covid impact on the 2021 Melbourne Cup it was still possibly one of the strongest fields we had seen in recent times with a number of Group One distance runners in the field, a returning champion and several big international names still travelling from across the ditch and further abroad.
Melbourne Cup Favourite Incentivise
The main runner that everyone was talking about however was race favourite and Peter Moody trained Incentivise who had been brought down from Queensland to pillage the riches that the Spring Carnival had to offer.
Incentivise had already caused a stir during the Queensland Winter Carnival when demolishing Group fields under the conditioning of trainer and owner Steve Tregea. Given the clear talent on show prominent owner Ozzie Kheir and connections were quick to snap up a stake in Incentivise and make plans to take the distance runner down to Victoria with the aim of winning the Melbourne Cup.
Once Incentivise was transferred to Peter Moody’s stable in Melbourne, he quickly picked up his first Group One title with a battling victory in the Turnbull Stakes before following that up with an almost arrogant win in the Group One Caulfield Cup, having drawn gate 22 and travel wide the entire trip.
Given that performance, and the Caulfield Cup being seen as one of the key lead up races for the Melbourne Cup, Incentivise was crunched into a $2.80 favourite for the 2021 Melbourne Cup with many punters jumping on the bandwagon in expecting it to be a procession on the first Tuesday of November.
Twilight Payment - The Returning Champ
Where Incentivise was expected to be the champ in waiting for the 2021 Melbourne Cup, prominent owner Lloyd Williams and his runner Twilight Payment who won the 2020 Melbourne Cup were back in town and aiming to go back to back in the Melbourne Cup for the first time.
Twilight Payment had put on an impressive front running performance in the 2020 Melbourne Cup to make all under the ride of Jye McNeil and take out the 3200m handicap contest.
Returning for the third time to tackle the Melbourne Cup Twilight Payment would need to overcome a number of historical records that stood against him if he was to go back to back for the first time since the great Makybe Diva dominated The Melbourne Cup in the early 2000s.
The main one that stood out for many punters was the age of Twilight Payment. An eight-year-old had never won the Melbourne Cup; never mind win it in consecutive years. This saw Twilight Payment blow out in the market and punters looking elsewhere. Although he did win at 25/1 the year before.
Spanish Mission - Best International Chance
Another one travelling from the Northern Hemisphere to contest the Melbourne Cup in 2021 and regarded as the best chance from the few internationals who had made the journey was Spanish Mission for trainer Andrew Balding.
Spanish Mission was a tricky one for punters to line up in the form having raced in the UK before having a brief spell in the Middle East racing before heading back to the UK for two runs and then heading down under to the Melbourne Cup.
The run that had tongues wagging for punters though was his run at York prior to travelling to Australia where he pushed the great, and possibly one of the greatest ever distance runners, Stradivarius all the way in the Londsdale Cup.
Spanish Mission would travel down under as second favourite for the 2021 Melbourne Cup and was expected to push Incentivise all the way.
2021 Melbourne Cup Best Of The Rest
Away from the big three there was still a lot of talent in the 2021 Melbourne Cup field with returning entries from The Chosen One, prepared by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, Great House for Chris Waller and Persan for Maher and Eustace.
There was a big buzz for Floating Artist on the day of the 2021 Melbourne Cup with the bottom weight, trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace receiving strong backing before the jump at Flemington, They had also received excellent back for stablemate Grand Promenade who was also expected to go well.
The one punters didn’t know what to do with however was Chris Waller trained Verry Elleegant who had finished in the top ten of the 2020 Melbourne Cup after previously winning the 2020 Caulfield Cup and Turnbull Stakes much like Incentivise in 2021.
A poor showing so far in the 2021 season though had meant punters had turned away from one of the darlings of Australian racing especially when she failed to land a glove on State Of Rest or Anamoe in that years W.S. Cox Plate.
The Result Of The 2021 Melbourne Cup
The 2021 Melbourne Cup final field was declared on the 30th October 2021 where 24 runners were listed to run on Tuesday 2nd November and contest the $8m 3200m handicap contest held at Flemington Racecourse.
The winner of the 2021 Melbourne Cup and final placings of the 161st running of Australia’s most prestigious race were as follows:
1st - 4. Verry Elleegant - (T) Chris Waller - (J) James McDonald - $18.00
2nd - 2. Incentivise - (T) Peter G. Moody - (J) Brett Prebble - $2.90f - 4 lengths
3rd - 3. Spanish Mission - (T) Andrew Balding - (J) Craig Williams - $10.00 - 4.4 lengths
4th - 22. Floating Artist - (T) Maher & Eustace - (J) Teo Nugent - $11.00 - 4.6 lengths
The Quinella result of the 2021 Melbourne Cup was Verry Elleegant and Incentivise which paid $21.80 on the New South Wales TAB.
The Trifecta result of the 2021 Melbourne Cup was 1st. Verry Elleegant 2nd. Incentivise 3rd. Spanish Mission which paid $436.20 on the New South Wales TAB.
The First Four result of the 2021 Melbourne Cup was 1st. Verry Elleegant 2nd. Incentivise 3rd. Spanish Mission 4th Floating Artist which paid $5413.50 on the New South Wales TAB.
Verry Elleegant wins the 2021 Melbourne Cup
All the talk in the lead up to the 2021 Melbourne Cup had been about if Incentivise could run up to his best then he was the one to beat in the 3200m handicap. Most punters had forgotten that super trainer Chris Waller had possibly one of the biggest talents ready to roll and had narrowly missed the year before.
Verry Ellegant was the star horse in 2020 having won the Turnbull and Caulfield Cup in the lead up to her Melbourne Cup tilt in the same year. It would ultimately form a bridge too far with Twilight Payment to quick to catch in the 160th Melbourne Cup.
Returning in the Autumn Verry Elleegant would renew her battle with UK import Addeyyb beating the William Haggis runner in the lead up, but once again falling short of conquering the British runner in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Many punters and connections had seen Verry Elleegants path and main goal heading towards the time honoured Cox Plate and a show down with the Annabel Neasham trained Zaaki who had been tearing up the form book since arriving from the UK the previous year.
As it would come to be Zaaki would be dramatically be withdrawn from the Cox Plate on the day of the race and Verry Elleegant would put on a brave showing late but failed to emulate the performance that would have been desired when finishing third.
Was it fate or was it all part of the master plan for Waller though who had seen Verry Elleegant go oh so close the year before. Was this a training masterpiece for the ages as Verry Elleegant would glide up the Flemington straight and defeat a floundering Spanish Mission and Incentivise to win the 2021 Melbourne Cup.