Twilight Payment wins the Melbourne Cup
Joseph O'Brien denied dad Aidan again in the Lexus Melbourne Cup as Twilight Payment held off the late charge of Tiger Moth under an inspired ride from the front by Jye McNeil.
Twilight Payment, O'Brien's second Melbourne Cup winner after Rekindling in 2017, was in front throughout and could not be reeled in by Tiger Moth, while Prince Of Arran ran another brave race for trainer Charlie Fellowes to finish third.
With no spectators and owners in attendance due to Covid-19 restrictions 'the race that stops a nation' took place without the usual pageantry in its 160th year, but the recent domination of British and Irish-trained runners continued, with the result mirroring the outcome of the 2017 running when Rekindling beat Aidan O'Brien's Johannes Vermeer.
McNeil, having his first ride in the Melbourne Cup, took Twilight Payment to the front early and he stayed there, with Finche fading away as he kicked clear entering the straight, and Tiger Moth and Prince Of Arran could not get there in time. It was a remarkable record seventh win in the race for Twilight Payment's part-owner Lloyd Williams, with his breeder Jim Bolger also retaining a stake.
An emotional McNeil, whose jockey partner Jess Payne gave birth to their first son earlier this year, said: “There’s too many emotions, it’s a very big moment. I’m not worried about the [empty] grandstands at all, just to be able get the opportunity from the Williams family and from Joseph O'Brien to partner Twilight Payment, it’s very overwhelming.
“It was always the plan to be forward, obviously with where he was in the market I wasn’t feeling a lot of pressure, but when you have got to go forward like that there is some pressure to get it right. Thankfully it all came together.
“I was trying to use my voice to encourage him as much as possible. It was a matter of hanging on and he was very tough.”
O'Brien, watching from home in Ireland, said: "Jye gave the horse a fantastic ride. All credit goes to the team of lads we have down there in Australia for the last month or so. They have done a fantastic job with the horses down there, they have all run with credit. This is the icing on the cake for them.
Twilight Payment was purchased out of Jim Bolger's yard by Badgers Bloodstock on behalf of Lloyd Williams in 2019 to target the Melbourne Cup.
“This was his first year with a full preparation with us. He came to us halfway through last season. He ran a couple of huge races at the Curragh. I was a little bit worried today he might have got a little bit of pressure for the lead a bit more than what we had hoped but the horse has got incredible heart and Jye gave him a fantastic ride and he kept fighting all the way to the line.
"I can’t thank Lloyd and Nick Williams enough for everything they do for me. They are both incredible and this is a fantastic result for them also.
“I am hugely privileged to train for the people I train for and the horses that we have. I really appreciate the support and the success when it comes, but it is a tough game as everybody knows, and it is a very fine line from the top to the bottom and we are very appreciative.”
At just 27 years of age, O'Brien is forging a second remarkable career as a trainer following his exploits in the saddle, with a second Melbourne Cup success, 27 years after Dermot Weld became the first Irish trainer to win the race with Vintage Crop, adding to an unbelievable CV of big-race wins including victories in the Irish Derby, Irish Gold Cup, St Leger, Galway Hurdle, Galway Plate, and triumphs at the Cheltenham Festival and the Breeders' Cup.
Reflecting on once again denying his father Aidan a first ever win the Melbourne Cup, O’Brien added on Sky Sports Racing: “We both realise how hard it is to win on the world stage in these 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 we having won. We do our best on the track and what happens out there happens.
“I was really too nervous to see what was going to happen. I could hardly watch, but it was a fantastic ride by Jye and a fantastic effort by all the lads with the horse.”