Dunaden wins Melbourne Cup
Melbourne - French horse Dunaden shrugged off a late jockey change to win a thrilling Melbourne Cup by the narrowest of margins from English stayer Red Cadeaux on Tuesday.
Dunaden's regular jockey Craig Williams was a late suspension from the 3 200 metre (two mile) race and Frenchman Christophe Lemaire was flown in from Tokyo as a replacement, only arriving on Monday afternoon.
But despite not having seen the Flemington racecourse before, Lemaire rode the perfect race, maintaining his position in the pack before bursting to the lead with 100 metres to go and holding off an equally fast finishing Red Cadeaux to win by a nose.
Judges had to blow up the photo four times more than usual to determine the winner, with trainer Mikel Delzangles admitting he thought Dunaden had lost, while Lemaire broke down in tears when he realised he had won.
"It was a great moment for me," Lemaire said. "I was a bit anxious. I knew it was very close.
"I feel very sorry for Craig. He's a good friend of mine," he added of Williams, who was suspended for 10 meetings on a careless riding charge last Wednesday, with his appeal turned down late Friday.
"I know it's very hard for him but it's part of a jockey's life and I'm sure he'll win the Melbourne Cup one year."
German horse Lucas Cranach was third, ahead of 2010 winner Americain and Manighar as European horses filled the top seven positions.
Dunaden followed the same path as Americain did last year, winning the Geelong Cup in his only start in Australia before the big Melbourne race.
The victory, the eighth in 28 starts for the six-year-old stallion, lands owner Sheikh Fahad al-Thani of Qatar A$3.6 million plus a trophy worth A$175 000.
The huge crowd of 105 000 had no indication of the drama to follow as the field of 23 began the race at a leisurely pace, bunching up as they passed the finishing line for the first time.
Illo, trained by 12-time Cup winner Bart Cummings, broke away and picked up the pace but his race was over 400 metres from the finish as the field swamped him and headed for home.
Manighar hit the front but was chased down by Lucas Cranach before Dunaden and Red Cadeaux stormed down the outside.
Dunaden began to drift wider but Lemaire switched his whip to the right hand to straighten him and that proved just enough.
"I would have preferred to get beaten by half a length than get beaten like that," Red Cadeaux jockey Michael Rodd said.
"We had a beautiful run through the race, I was able to come out when I wanted to and he felt fantastic.
"I was able to hold him up till the 400 (metres) and coming into the 350 I let him go and he showed a turn of foot I wasn't expecting.
"He's tried really hard and it's taken a good horse to beat him."
Americain jockey Gerald Mosse said the 2010 champion had done well to finish fourth after being handicapped 3.5kg heavier than last year.
"The track was too firm for him and the weight disadvantage didn't help him too much," Mosse said.
"I was not really comfortable, he never travelled the way he usually travels."