Cup champ’s failure shakes O’Brien camp

Danny O'Brien will almost certainly abandon Vow And Declare's autumn and winter program after the Melbourne Cup winner was upstaged by Haky in a stunning upset in the William Newton Handicap (2600m).

A $1.90 favourite, Vow And Declare finished fifth, beaten four lengths, behind Haky ($13), Sin To Win ($16), Good Idea ($14) and Skelm ($19).

It was the first time the gelding had finished worse than second in races at 2400m and beyond, after victories in the Melbourne and Tattersalls Cup, and seconds in the Caulfield Cup and Queensland Derby.

O'Brien and jockey Craig Williams made no excuses after the four-year-old enjoyed an economical run in fifth place before failing to accelerate with trademark gusto.

"He seems fine, but he's obviously run below par in Sydney (ninth in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes) and today.

"I suspect you won't see him again until the spring, he'll probably head down to the beach (Thirteenth Beach).

"We'll have another look at him in the morning. There were no excuses at all, he had a perfect run.

"Obviously he was disappointing. We'll just see how he pulls up and work where we go from here."

Williams said: "He's run five lengths inferior to his best. That's not the Vow And Declare we know."

Haky's triumph was a masterstroke for young Ballarat trainer Haky, who inherited the import from dual Arc-winning trainer John Hammond and immediately decided on a change of tactics to revitalise the horse.

"I was adamant the minute I got this horse that he's not going to be leading anymore," Alexander said after Declan Bates sat off the speed before pouncing.


Haky is too strong in the William Newton VC Handicap, which saw Vow And Declare finish in fifth place.
Haky is too strong in the William Newton VC Handicap, which saw Vow And Declare finish in fifth place.


"We needed to teach him to settle and I think going the Australian way of trialling over 800 (metres), running over 1000m, running over a mile, the non-European things, has really taught this horse to relax and stop having his own way.

"The two horses (Beau Balmain and Scholarly) in front were going a good gallop and we were behind them having a breather," Alexander said.

"It was just like a racecourse gallop, really. We were in third, had a bit of cover and when Declan had that bit of cover, he's a very tough horse.

"We weren't thinking that we'd beat that horse (Vow And Declare). We've got a lot of plans but we'll just have to see.

"I'm not saying that he's going to win a Melbourne Cup but he could win a nice Geelong Cup, Bendigo, Ballarat Cup, maybe just a little bit below the Melbourne Cup but where he ran today, who knows?"

Despite Vow And Declare's defeat, O'Brien took training honours after an early double with Flying Award and Naivasha.



Ben Melham and Sacramento combine to take out the VRC St Leger.
Ben Melham and Sacramento combine to take out the VRC St Leger.



Sacramento could chase a Melbourne Cup berth through next month's The Andrew Ramsden after the gelding's dramatic VRC St Leger success.

Delivering an extraordinary fifth win in Victoria's second-oldest classic for Gai Waterhouse, Sacramento ($5.50) had to survive a protest from St Eustace's rider Michael Walker after tightening over the last 100m.

But Sacramento's jockey Ben Melham convinced stewards to reject the objection, leaving Waterhouse and co-trainer Adrian Bott with ballot-free entry into The Ramsden, which in turn offers ballot exemption in the Melbourne Cup to the winner. Waterhouse and Bott have now won three successive St Legers.

Ridden quietly by Melham, Sacramento blended into the race at precisely the right time, emerging at the 200m, before fending off St Eustace ($31) and Wahine Toa ($26).

"He looked the leader in a race of nice speed, but he just stepped a bit awkwardly, I was always looking for one to cover him up," Melham said.

"I thought that breeze was pretty strong around the circle, especially the second half.

"It was a strong staying performance - too good."

Waterhouse and Bott had won the race with Runaway (2018) and Transact (2019).

Waterhouse also won the VRC St Leger with Hippopus (2013) and Order Of The Sun (2014). Melham became the fifth different rider to land the St Leger for Waterhouse, joining Stephen Baster, Luke Currie, Chad Schofield and Craig Williams.




Originally published as Cup champ's failure shakes O'Brien camp