Joseph O’Brien once again denied his father Aidan in the Lexus Melbourne Cup as Twilight Payment made all to lift the Group One contest at Flemington.
The trainer registered his first win when Rekindling held off O’Brien snr’s Johannes Vermeer by half a length in 2017, and the distance was the same this time around as Tiger Moth just failed to reel in the Jye McNeil-ridden winner.
Charlie Fellowes’ British raider Prince Of Arran, placed in the last two Melbourne Cups, came agonisingly close to victory once again, finishing with purpose to be beaten a head in third in a race that was marred by the death of last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who was euthanised after fracturing a fetlock.
Of beating his father once again in the Australian event, O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing: “We both realise how hard it is to win on the world stage in these big, big races, but I am very lucky that I have been able to win a couple of big races.
“Dad has been very lucky, he has won a lot of big races, I’d be delighted for him if he had won, and I’m sure he is for me having won. We do our best on the track and whatever happens out there happens.
“I was really too nervous to see what was going to happen. I was hardly able to watch, but it was a fantastic ride by Jye and a fantastic effort by all the lads with the horse.”
McNeil executed a perfect front-running ride, with the field well strung out on the home turn before Twilight Payment, who was previously trained by Jim Bolger and finished 11th in the race last year, kept finding for pressure in the finish.
McNeil told www.racing.com: “I encouraged him (Twilight Payment) to go forward, because that was the plan. Then he just found such a lovely tempo at the top. It was just a matter of amping the rhythm up at just the right stage and I am glad it all worked out.
“Joseph wanted me to be a step ahead of the field and really get them chasing. What he lacks in class, he makes up in his staying ability.
“I’m peaking on my run 200m out. I’m using all of my might not to use too many whips, very vocal, trying to encourage him.
“It was very surreal crossing the line in front. I’ve got goosebumps from then and they’re still here now.”
O’Brien added: “Jye gave the horse a fantastic ride. Credit goes to the lads who have looked after Twilight Payment for the last month or so. They’ve done a fantastic job with the horses down there.”
Kerrin McEvoy was thrilled with Tiger Moth’s effort in second, beaten half a length, on what was only his fifth career start, but there was a sting in the tail for the rider, who was fined $50,000 and banned for 13 meetings for misusing his whip.
McEvoy pleaded guilty to the charge after it was found he hit Moth 13 times before the 100-metre (half-furlong) mark and 21 times in total. He is not permitted to strike his mount more than five times before the 100-metre mark.
McEvoy said: “It was a great run for a young horse having only his fifth start in a race. He’s run really well.”
Fellowes and rider Jamie Kah were ruing their luck after Prince Of Arran endured a troubled passage at the top of the straight, before flying home to claim third, adding to his second of last year and third in 2018.
The Newmarket handler said: “He’s a remarkable horse. He’s done everything right and if he had enjoyed a bit more luck, he could well have gone even closer.
“He was just very unlucky on the home bend. Jamie had him in a perfect position, she got him into a good rhythm and then he couldn’t find a run, which we knew was a risk from his draw, but he’s run a great race.
“Take nothing away from the winner though – Jye McNeil gave him a brilliant and brave ride from the front and he got his fractions absolutely spot on. The best horse won on the day.”
Prince Of Arran is now likely to head to the Saudi Cup meeting at Riyadh in February, with Fellowes not planning too far ahead with his stable star.
He added: “I just felt this year was his year. He had a perfect preparation and it looked a winnable race, but we just needed a bit more luck.
“We will get him home and see how he is, but Saudi Arabia would likely be the next stop.
“We will just take it one race at a time with him. He’s a seven-year-old and while he does save a bit for himself, which perhaps could give him a longer shelf life at that top level, if ever we were worried about him, either in preparation or after a race, we wouldn’t take any chances.
“He’s an amazing horse and owes us nothing.”