MELBOURNE CUP 2021 IN REVIEW

Now that the dust has settled on the 2021 Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, we look back at the race that stopped the nation to reflect on the main talking points for the big race. Was Verry Elleegant always the one to beat?

The 2021 Melbourne Cup was one of the first race meetings to be run after restrictions had been eased due to the ongoing global Covid Pandemic and first and foremost it was great to see racing fans back at the track to cheer on the $8m Melbourne Cup. 

Jockey’s rode out onto the hallowed Flemington Racecourse in front of roaring fans, albeit in limited numbers but nonetheless enthusiastic at creating an exciting atmosphere for the 2021 Melbourne Cup.

The return of fans combined with the competitive field that had been assembled with runners from home and abroad had The Cup set to be one of the best for years and it didn’t disappoint. 

The Lead Up To The Melbourne Cup

In the build up to the race this year we had seen distance runners putting on performances left, right and centre. Annabel Neasham had Cox Plate favourite Zaaki winning races at ease, going round most of the time at unbackable prices.

UK raider Spanish Mission for British trainer Andrew Balding had travelled down under with huge expectation after having pushed one of the worlds best distance runners, Stradivarius, all the way in a big feature race in the Uk.

People were also wondering if Lloyd Williams’s 2020 Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment could deliver the first back to back Melbourne Cups for the Macedon Lodge stable since they began their love affair with the race.

Mostly though, attention was on Peter Moody trained runner Incentivise who had been bought by racehorse purchasing powerhouse Ozzie Kheir and Brae Sokolski and recently relocated from Queensland to Victoria to compete in the Spring.

Incentivise had been demolishing fields in Queensland through the Autumn and Winter months under the trainer of part owner Steve Tregea, at one point holding an average margin of victory in his races at 10 lengths including this slashing win in the Group 2 Tattersals Cup.

The five year old gelding was already floating around the $6 mark for the Melbourne Cup and led favouritism for the Caulfield Cup as well. It didn’t take Moody’s runner to show his talents as he added a 7th consecutive win to his resume in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes.

Bookmakers were quick to crunch the odds of the Queenslander into a short price favourite for both the cups and all the talk soon became of ‘how far will he’ rather than ‘who will’ win the Melbourne Cup.

Further Group 1 wins in the TAB Turnbull Stakes as well as knocking off the Caulfield Cup field with arrogance led Incentivise to be the shortest Melbourne Cup favourite since Phar Lap.

What everyone had forgotten about though was the star power of McDonald and Waller as Verry Elleegant flew under the radar after an impressive Cox Plate finish.

Melbourne Cup 2021 Betting

In the lead up to the race all the talk remained with Incentivise but on the day betting saw the Moody runner drift from $2.50 out to $3 as the bookies saw an influx of cash from Melbourne Cup punters backing around the short price.

The main movers in the market had been Floating Artist for Maher and Eustace as well as stable mate Grande Promenade who came into the race after a strong victory in the G3 Bart Cummings.

Grande Promenade in particular had seen a strong wave of support before the jump moving from $20 after the barrier draw into $15 at the start of the race.

Of the roughies in the race Kiwi pairing of Ocean Billy and The Chosen One saw a slight move on the day with the Chosen One under the ride of Damien Lane seeing a move from $51 into $31 as he looked to build on the previous year's campaign.

Regardless of betting behaviour however Incentivise remained the favourite for the race and by 3pm on the first Tuesday of November and was the only runner in the race in single figures with some bookmakers after second favourite Spanish Mission drifted past the $10 mark.

The Melbourne Cup 2021

When the gates crashed back for the 2021 Melbourne Cup there was an early scramble for the lead with 8 runners across the track approaching the course proper after starting on the Flemington straight.

Eventually when riders began to find positions it was Persan who would take up the lead under the ride of Luke Currie, while Knights Order and Floating Artist would settle in behind the South Australian leaving race favourite Incentivise three wide without cover.

As the runners crossed the finishing line for the first time and entered the first turn jockey Brett Prebble was able to steer the race favourite into one off the fence one back position while backed runner Grande Promenade remained three wide fiver back.

With 1400m left to go Maher and Eustace’s Grande Promenade was the first one to make a move forward heading up towards the leader whilst remaining three wide. The rest of the field including Verry Elleegant, Spanish Mission and the Chosen One.

The previous years winner Twilight Payment did begin to make headway but looked incredibly one paced as he rounded the home turn.

Heading into the straight it looked like there were a handful with chances as race favourites Spanish Mission and Incentivise tracked into the race while leaders Persan and Knights Order began to go into reverse.

While the other runners came off the bridle and went under hands and heels to kick on there was one horse that travelled better than everyone - Verry Elleegant. Under the ride of James Mcdonald the mare had tracked into a prime position and looked to be the one to watch in the straight.

At 400m McDonald let down on the Australian Horse of the Year and began to move past the remaining contenders who already looked to be under serious pressure. Incentivise had the lead and had seemingly beaten off the field challenges from Floating Artist and Grande Promenade.

Moving past the 300m mark Verry Elleegant had swept past Incentivise and went to kick on by 3 lengths in the final 100m looking likely she had more in the tank, hitting the line strongly and winning the 2021 Melbourne Cup.

Incentivise would go on to claim second in the race, holding off a late challenge from the Andrew Balding trained stayer, Spanish Mission in third with Floating Artist coming a close fourth. 

It was Verry Elleegant’s year though and for the pairing of trainer Chris Waller and jockey James Mcdonald it was a huge win as it marked there first win in the race ever after years of trying to gain victory in the time honoured race.

Verry Elleegant Wins 2021 The Melbourne Cup

After the race and with Chris Waller unable to attend the race, stable rep Johanne Taylor gave an interview on his behalf and claimed the signs were there after a courageous performance in the Group 1 Cox Plate just over a week earlier.

“Her performance in the Cox Plate was fantastic. She was just really tough, we always thought that Moonee Valley just that final turn could be a sticky spot for her, she was in a tricky part of the track and the other two horses who are very good horses, just got the split on her, but she kept finding all the way to the line.

“We gave her the time that she needed. We allowed her to tell us what she wanted to do all the way through the Cox Plate. After the Cox Plate, Steven Arnold rode her for the first time Tuesday morning and he said “Geez, I think she’s come on even more,” and obviously that is very good feedback to hear after a big race like that.

“Like you said she had a tough task ahead of her today. 57kg is certainly a lot to carry and then combine that with the barrier, she certainly had a mountain to climb, but she got in a really good position and we were turning for home you wanted to start getting excited but you don’t want to go the early crow either.”

On his first win and in a post race interview, Jockey McDonald was understandably buzzing about the win and full of nothing but praise for the champion mare knowing she had a good chance in the race when entering the final stages.

“I just didn’t think this day would ever happen. I ride in these races, I really want to win but sometimes you can overthink it and try too hard."

“I was very confident in the mare today. Thoughts went through my mind at the 500m when I saw Incentivise getting shoved along but I knew he would fight. There wasn’t a horse that was going to come from behind me, it was just a matter of catching him.”

Who Wins The Melbourne Cup 2022

So where do we go from here? Verry Elleegant has always been a horse run around the 2000m mark and has rocked up in 2021 and won a 3200m race. The question is, do the stable keep her in training to make the most of the Sydney Cup or head for a third contest with Addeyyb in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Autumn.

Bookmakers seem to think the latter given recent market releases from the TAB, but given her recent form in this year and last we have to consider her an option for the 2022 Melbourne Cup.

Who Are the Best of the Rest and Ones to Watch?

You obviously can’t underestimate the power of Incentivise for the Moody stable and if he continues to win races at this level he’ll be right in contention again next year. Take into consideration that was his first run at 3200m as well as the way he won the Caulfield Cup he’ll be coming back stronger next year.

Add to the mix the purchase of his new stablemate and third place horse Spanish Mission the Moody stable will be a force to reckon with in 2022.

The one we’re keen to watch is Maker and Eustace’s import Floating Artist. Finishing fourth in the race a nose off Incentivise the youngster has everything on his side including age and weighting to be competitive for a long time to come.


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