MELBOURNE, Australia – Japan-based Delta Blues edged Japanese stablemate Pop Rock to win the 3,200-meter Melbourne Cup on Tuesday and give trainer Katsuhiko Sumii a 1-2 finish in Australia’s most prestigious horse race.
“Very happy, very happy,” said jockey Yasunari Iwata in halting English after he crossed the finish line on 6-year-old Delta Blues at Flemington just ahead of second favorite Pop Rock, ridden by Australian jockey Damien Oliver.
Iwata, who has ridden more than 3,000 winners in Japan, said through an interpreter he would celebrate “Australian-style: elbow-bending,” indicating he would have a few drinks with friends.
Australian entry Maybe Better, ridden by Chris Munce, was third, 4 1/2 lengths behind.
Zipping, ridden by Glen Boss, who won the Cup for three straight years aboard the now-retired Makybe Diva from 2003-2005, was fourth. English horse Land ‘N Stars, one of seven foreign horses in the field, was the next-best among the visitors, finishing fifth.
Under overcast skies, the leading jockeys gave each other high-fives as they cantered down the track after their two-horse duel in the final 200 meters to the finish.
The last overseas horse to win the Melbourne Cup was Media Puzzle in 2002 and the first Irish galloper Vintage Crop in 1993, both trained by Irishman Dermot Weld.
Delta Blues and Pop Rock were bred and are owned by Katsumi Yoshida who, with his two brothers, owns Shadai Farm in Sapporo.
Trainer Sumii broke down in tears after the Melbourne Cup was presented. “Unbelievable, really unbelievable,” Sumii said as he hugged his associates in the ring.
“It was fantastic performance for the Japanese here,” said Oliver. “I raised Yasunari’s hands after the finish because I knew he had me.”
Australian trainers who did not fare well in the race paid tribute to the Japanese stable.
“Good on them, they put so much money into their racing and breeding and I take my hat off to them,” Zipping’s trainer Graeme Rogerson said.
John Hawkes, whose three runners Railings, Headturner and Dizelle finished in the second half of the field, agreed.
“It’s a great job to do what they’ve done,” Hawkes said. “All credit to them.”
More than 100,000 spectators watched the 5 million Australian dollar ($3.85 million) race at Flemington, which held its first Melbourne Cup in 1861.
Irish stayer Yeats, ridden by English jockey Kieren Fallon, led for a short time in the final 1,000 meters but faded and finished seventh.
Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, riding in his 11th Melbourne Cup, rode English horse Geordieland to an 18th-place finish in the 23-horse field.
Tawqeet, the pre-race Melbourne Cup favorite, had a hoof injury Monday night and was only cleared to race on Tuesday morning. The 5-year-old finished 19th and never threatened.