By Nicholas Godfrey
Australia: Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare was an odds-on flop on Saturday when he could finish only fifth in a minor event back at Flemington, the scene of his greatest triumph last November in the ‘race that stops a nation’.
Jockey Craig Williams suggested Vow And Declare was “five lengths” below his best in a laboured display behind former European-trained Haky in the William Newton VC Handicap over 2,600 metres (1m5f) at the Melbourne Cup venue.
Trainer Danny O’Brien was at a loss to explain a below-par effort. “No, no excuses at all – had a perfect run,” said the trainer. “Obviously he was disappointing. We’ll just see how he pulls up and work out where we go from there.”
Carrying top-weight of 61kg (9st8lb), Vow And Declare was sent off 9-10 favourite for the A$108,000 handicap (£55,000) in which he was struggling after turning for home.
He was beaten four lengths behind Haky, a Group-placed stayer in France breaking his duck for Ballarat-based trainer Archie Alexander, who has just taken over former William Haggas-trained Young Rascal.
“This wasn’t the Vow And Declare that we know – he’s raced five lengths inferior to his best,” reported jockey Williams, who partnered the four-year-old gelding to his narrow Melbourne Cup victory over European trio Master Of Reality, Prince Of Arran and Il Paradiso.
On his previous start, Vow And Declare was ninth of 12 behind Addeybb in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.
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