Jockey Ben Melham has admitted he thought the Melbourne Cup was in his keeping after racing clear in the home straight aboard Johannes Vermeer.
The former Ballarat boy looked the winner of the $6million race in the home straight, but was passed in the shadows of the post by Corey Brown and his mount Rekindling.
Melham appeared deflated after the narrow defeat, but said it was a “super honest effort” from his horse.
“He straightened up and travelled well into the straight and I was just mindful of going too early on him,” Melham told Channel 7.
“I sort of sat on him for as long as I could, pressed the button and I thought we were home to be honest.
“But probably just the weight difference (between Johannes Vermeer and Rekindling) was the telling story at the finish.”
Melham said he was surprised to see a rival run over the top of him late in the 3200m race.
“He has run full of merit and we might be back next year,” he said.
Melham said he had long been confident of Johannes Vermeer’s chances in the Melbourne Cup.
“I just wanted to make sure I got it right with him because I knew he’d run well if we did,” he said.
“I got it right and it took a smart one on the day with a bit less weight to beat him.”
At the finish line, Melham and Johannes Vermeer were denied by a long neck.
Meanwhile, the Ballarat-based connections of Big Duke were celebrating a fourth placing in the nation’s greatest race.
The Darren Weir runner finished as the first of the Australian-trained hopes in the Melbourne Cup.
Part-owner Rohan Gilchrist told The Courier he thought Big Duke was looming to win the race at one point in the straight and was thrilled with the performance.
The Irish-bred stayer crossed the line less than sixth lengths from the winner.
“He's run a great race,” Weir said.
“He's usually so honest and to finish in the top five is a great result.”
Big Duke was one of three runners Weir saddled in the race.
Humidor was the most fancied – sent out at $11 – but never raised the hopes of his backers. He placed 19th while Amelie's Star ($21) finished 14th.
Tiberian, who is part-owned by Ballan-based syndicators Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, was seventh to pass the post in a strong performance.
FULL FINISHING ORDER:
1. Rekindling (22)
2. Johannes Vermeer (7)
3. Max Dynamite (9)
4. Big Duke (13)
5. Nakeeta (18)
6. Thomas Hobson (21)
7. Tiberian (4)
8. Libran (17)
9. Marmelo (5)
10. Wicklow Brave (12)
11. Red Cardinal (6)
12. Almandin (2)
13. Cismontane (24)
14. Amelie's Star (23)
15. Boom Time (15)
16. Wall Of Fire (20)
17. Single Gaze (19)
18. US Army Ranger (14)
19. Humidor (3)
20. Hartnell (1)
21. Ventura Storm (10)
22. Bondi Beach (8)
23 (LAST). Gallante (16)
SCRATCHED: Who Shot Thebarman (11)