The majority of the 120,000 Flemington crowd for the 150th renewal of Australia’s iconic race roared as So You Think surged into the lead at the furlong pole, but he was unable to suppress Gerald Mosse and the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Americain, while the young upstart Maluckyday wrestled second place away from him.
Dermot Weld’s strikes with Media Puzzle and Vintage Crop were the only two previous European victories and there was little to smile about from the display of the non-Gallic raiders from perhaps the strongest overseas party to date with Godolphin’s Holberg and Frankie Dettori next best in sixth, just ahead of Luca Cumani’s Manighar.
So You Think, sent off at 2-1 on course and the shortest-priced favourite in the race for 39 years, had appeared destined for equine immortality after winning the second of his Cox Plates just a week and a half ago and following up in a canter in Saturday’s Mackinnon Stakes.
Punters were trusting the intuition of 12-times Cup winning-trainer Bart Cummings as to whether he could step up from 10 furlongs to two miles and he very nearly did, despite pulling hard through much of the race.
Although the two-and-three-quarter-length triumph did not lift the roof like So You Think would have done, this was not a wholly foreign affair as seven months ago Americain was bought for $225,000 by Australian pair Gerry Ryan and Kevin Bamford, who returned the ex-Andre Fabre inmate back to France after he had stagnated during a spell in America.
Royer-Dupre, whose list of major racing achievements have been mostly at home and include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, acceded to the desire of the owners to head Down Under and he took a leaf out of Cummings’ book by producing him to win a very recent prep-run in the Geelong Cup.
But rather than copying the usually forceful style of Australian jockeys, Mosse sat as quietly as he would have done in a slowly-run contest at Longchamp, stalking So You Think until he wound Americain up for a decisive finishing kick.
“Jockeys have short memories and the last win is always the best one,” joked Mosse.
“I’ve won some big races around the world but I want to thank everyone here for being so fantastic, especially the owner for having confidence in a French jockey.
“I was pretty confident as every time I have ridden him he has got better.
“I did not want So You Think to get too far ahead but with 300 metres left, I knew the race was over.
“It was really easy. I waited for the gaps and the horse had everything.”
Royer-Dupre added: “The quarantine is very heavy and he had to be managed for a long time. The preparation over such a period by my staff is the most important achievement.”
Of future plans, Ryan said: “He’ll go to the Hong Kong Vase now, then back to France. Hopefully he’ll have another crack here next year.”
So You Think’s jockey Steven Arnold said: “I thought he ran a super race. It was a bit stop-start and he kind of lost his rhythm.
“He kicked away turning in, but he peaked at the furlong pole and the winner was too strong.”
Both Cumani and the Godolphin camp have been second on several occasions but they never really looked like ending the sequence this time.
Cumani’s experience was forgettable on several counts – his other runner Bauer was withdrawn in the morning when his hoof was still causing problems while third-string Drunken Sailor missed the cut by one.
“Manighar ran a good race, seventh’s not a bad place to run,” said Cumani.
“Damien Oliver said the ground was very loose. He followed Americain as long as he could, but there were no excuses. We’ll just have to come back next year.”
Dettori said of Holberg: “The ground was too soft. He stayed on strongly but with better ground, I think he could have finished in the frame.”
Illustrious Blue signed off for William Knight in ninth, while Weld’s Profound Beauty was 17th of the 23 starters.
“There are no excuses – you win some, you lose some,” reflected Weld.
“She was drawn 22 and was too far back, but that wasn’t by design. Full marks to the winner.”