This just in from Reuters News Service
MELBOURNE: Efficient unleashed a devastating late sprint Tuesday to win the 147th running of the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s richest and most popular horse race.
Efficient, ridden by Michael Rodd, stormed from near the back of the field to overhaul the English-trained Purple Moon in the shadow of the post and win by half a length.
Mahler, an Irish stayer, held on for third after leading into the final straight but all the honors went to Efficient, which paid 22.40 Australian dollars, or $20.78, for a Australian dollar bet.
“I had to chase down Damien Oliver, who was riding on Purple Moon, which was one of the favorites,” Rodd said after the race.
“I knew he’d be tough to get past, but I had such a soft run, a bit light on the weights, too, and it’s just unbelievable.
Efficient was billed as Australia’s next great horse after his brilliant victory in last year’s Victoria Derby before things went wrong.
He was among the favorites in last year’s Melbourne Cup but was scratched on the morning of the event after going lame and had not won a race since.
His connections were so worried that his trainer, Graeme Rogerson, recently started putting him over the hurdles, but the 4-year-old gelding found his best form at the right time, overhauling Luca Cumani’s Purple Moon in the last few meters to win the 5.1 million Australian dollar handicap.
“We’ve always known the horse had the ability but, as with everything with horses, it’s a moveable feast, so we had to adjust his training,” Efficient’s part-owner, Nick Williams, said at a news conference.
Tuesday’s 3,200 meter, or 2-mile, race was run in front of a crowd of 120,000 at Flemington and was watched by millions of Australians on television after initial fears it may have to be canceled for the first time since the race began in 1861.
Australia’s racing industry has been crippled since the detection of equine influenza in Sydney more than two months ago forced a complete shutdown of all horse movement and races in two of Australia’s biggest states.
Melbourne Cup officials were given the go-ahead after the highly contagious disease was partially contained and they agreed to major concessions.
Most of the top interstate horses were banned from entering, while only three overseas horses, less than half the normal number, ran after the biggest stables from Europe, Asia and North America opted to keep their horses at home.
Across Australia the race drew an estimated 125 million Australian dollars in bets.
“The race that stops a nation,” did stop Melbourne because the city declared race day a public holiday. Even schoolchildren were permitted to pause classes to take in the Cup.