Vow And Declare isn't one of the best horses to ever win the Melbourne Cup but he might be one of the most important.

Because for plenty of Australian racing fans the big, beautiful Victorian galloper might be the horse who saved the Melbourne Cup.

In recent years the great race, which has been Australian racing's holy grail for well over a century, has been under attack from north of the border.

Sydney and Melbourne have traded blows to be the racing capital of Australia, with the A$14 million Everest run at Randwick last month being touted as the true Australian race.


It is for sprinters, which Australians breed best, for huge money and has the full weight of the Sydney media behind it.

And part of the key messages that punters were being sold, or force fed by NSW in their weird interstate war of words, was that the Melbourne Cup was no longer their race. It had been taken over by the overseas invaders and there was no room for fair dinkum Aussies.

So the race that stopped a nation needed a local fairytale. An equine hero to prove the Aussies were still welcome at their own party.

Cue local 4-year-old Vow And Declare, a horse bred in Australia and once passed in at the sales for just $45,000. A horse almost any knockabout Aussie could have ended up owning.

Vow And Declare is 100 per cent Aussie and ridden by one of the heroes of their racing in Craig Williams, perhaps the most professional and media friendly jockey in the sunburnt land.

At the top of the Flemington straight with 500m to run that fairytale had some serious villains threatening as Irish raider Master Of Reality shot two lengths clear for the world's greatest jockey Frankie Dettori.

Challengers like Prince Of Arran emerged and another Irish-trained visitor in Il Paradiso storming home, but Vow And Declare found and then found some more, holding the Northern Hemisphere wave at bay.

Craig Williams holds the Melbourne Cup after winning with Vow And Declare during 2019 Melbourne Cup Day. Photo / Getty Images
Craig Williams holds the Melbourne Cup after winning with Vow And Declare during 2019 Melbourne Cup Day. Photo / Getty Images

The Melbourne Cup was once again Australia's Cup and there is nothing Australians like more than beating the world.


As they left Flemington last night those who still had the money or ability to drink could toast a local win, an Aussie who defeated the world. The Cup had come home.

Victorian racing bosses can re-sell the fairytale for the next 12 months, maybe more, and they will know secretly NSW racing bosses would have craved another foreign win.

There is deep irony in Victorian trainer Danny O'Brien being the man responsible for Vow And Declare's win as he had waged a near three-year war against Victorian stewards to keep his training licence after being suspended on controversial drug charges.

But Victorian bosses will be able to swallow that because after the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate went to Japan in the last month, their entire spring could have been about horses who may never be seen there again.

Now they have a local hero, one that if he holds together will almost certainly return to Flemington next year.

As good as Vow And Declare was he was aided by a stunning ride from Williams, who took the initiative early to head for the front from a wide draw to get handy, which proved the winning of the race in a slowly run Cup that gave those back in the field little chance. The winning time was eight seconds, or 120m, outside the race record.

Post-race drama came in the inquiry room after stewards lodged a protest against Master Of Reality finishing second because he moved in five horse widths in the final 200m and crowded fourth placegetter Il Paradiso.

Even Dettori's charm wasn't enough to help him hold second, with Master Of Reality relegated to fourth and iron horse Prince Of Arran promoted to second for Kiwi jockey Michael Walker.

The other Kiwi connections in the race saw Surprise Baby, bred here and sold for a song, a brave fifth after being too far back in the slowly-run race while the other New Zealanders finished alongside each other with Cambridge-trained The Chosen One 17th and Latrobe, ridden by ex-pat jockey James McDonald in 18th.

The two favourites Mer De Glace and Finche also finished alongside each other in sixth and seventh.

But soon after the Melbourne Cup the losers are forgotten, only one name stands out in the history books.

And to the the enormous relief of the Victorian Racing Club, that horse is an Australian.