A first-time Melbourne Cup win was within the sights of Dunedoo’s Hugh Bowman but his race favourite, Marmelo, simply didn’t have the energy to stay at the head of the field.
The Prix de Kergorlay winner was touted as Bowman’s best chance to break his Cup drought but over the final 300 metres of Tuesday’s two-mile classic Marmelo watched a host of runners go by him on the Flemington turf.
Marmelo had led briefly at the top of the straight but would slowly drop back through the field to finish in ninth.
As Bowman watched his winning hopes slip away an intense battle was beginning to brew out in front.
It was a sixth Melbourne Cup for prolific owner Floyd Williams, and a first for 24-year-old trainer Joseph O’Brien, as Rekindling (Corey Brown, $15) chased down Johannes Vermeer (Ben Melham, $14) to win by a half length.
Max Dynamite (Zac Purton, $21) was third.
Winning jockey Brown struggled to find the right words to describe the sensation of winning his second Cup, after claiming his first on Shocking in 2009.
“I can’t believe it. The manager and I chased this ride about six weeks ago. With the light weight I thought I’d be a chance at getting a ride on him,” he said.
“I’d like to thank Joseph O’Brien and team Williams. I’ve been back from overseas for about nine months, slowly but surely getting back to where I was.
“It’s so special. I’ve got my family with me and my girls are old enough to come to the races now and enjoy it. I’m lost for words. I can’t believe I’ve done it again.”
Marmelo got out beautifully from barrier 16 and worked forward to settle in fourth place, sitting on the outside of Caulfield Cup winner Boom Time.
Bowman comfortably trailed Gallante throughout the running and when the field made the turn for home Marmelo moved up to take on leader Cismontane.
Marmelo breezed by the tiring leader and the only remaining question was whether he had the legs to keep all other 22 horses behind him.
Johannes Vermeer hit the front with just over 300m left to run and sadly for Bowman he couldn’t keep up.
Meanwhile, the other major Bathurst connection in the race, Tiberian, also looked like a winning hope during the finish dash for the line.
The French galloper, part owned by Bathurst’s Mick and Stacey Whittaker, was sitting on the outside of Marmelo when the runners straightened for home.
Jockey Olivier Peslier brought Tiberian forward in a mid race move to sit inside the top five.
Tiberian couldn’t go with Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer when the duo surged to the front, finishing seventh.
“When he hit the front we thought ‘wow, he’s got this’ but he’d just expelled so much energy to get there,” Mick Whittaker said.
“He just kept going and going and going though. He could have finished outside the top 10 but he managed seventh and that’s unbelievable. It’s brilliant.
“I think if he makes the trek back to Australia next year and has a couple of good hit-outs before the Melbourne Cup we might find he could be a really strong contender.”