Jockey Jye McNeil has quite rightly been receiving rave reviews for his winning start to finish ride on Twilight Payment in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup. As justified as that outflowing of praise has been, all of those reviews have come from observers though, rather than anybody who has actually ‘been there and done that.’
That is because the start to finish aspect of the victory is, in itself, a rare event and you have to go all the way back to 1997, when Jim Cassidy squeezed a nail-biting victory out of Might And Power, to find the last time it happened prior to Twilight Payment’s outstanding performance.
With Jimmy Cassidy ‘having been there and done that,’ there is, without exception, nobody better placed to comment on Twilight Payment’s performance and the ride of Jye McNeil … and Jimmy ‘Pumper’ Cassidy was happy to share his thoughts on the subject.
“Firstly, to win the Melbourne Cup from the front, you have got to have a horse that can bowl along in front and relax enough to run the two miles,” said Cassidy.
“I can say that has been pretty much impossible to achieve in the Melbourne Cup for a hundred and fifty-eight years because it’s only been done twice in one hundred and sixty years, so that win by Jye McNeil on Twilight Payment was really quite phenomenal.
“I was the first one to praise him in respect of the fact that it was just so good seeing somebody having a crack at doing it … or, in my language, having the balls to go out and do it and let the horse bowl along like that.
“The aim is to rate your horse perfectly in the lead but, judging that in respect of time while not knowing what is going on behind you … is very, very difficult.
“What it comes down to is backing your own ability, the horse’s ability and having the trust of the trainer for him to be able to say go out and lead and do it your way … but, as all jockeys and track work riders know, it is hard to get it that timing right with everything that happens on any ordinary day, let alone Melbourne Cup day which, obviously, is the biggest stage of all.”
While both Twilight Payment and Might And Power won from the front, there are differences between the two wins, both in terms of the two horses as individuals and the way the two races unfolded … as Cassidy explained.
“In one respect it was harder for Might And Power because on Tuesday Twilight Payment looked like a true two-miler whereas Might And Power wasn’t a true two-miler … plus Might And Power carried 56kg and he was seriously challenged at various stages of the running.
“Crying Game came and had a go at me at the 1000, then my brother Larry came up and had a crack at me on Linesman, so I think Might And Power did it a lot tougher from the 1000 than this year’s winner did.
“The winner on Tuesday was lucky in a way because no one else was able to provide those sort of challenges … but, in saying that, it was the incredible ride of Jye McNeil that played a part in creating that situation.
“In respect of not being challenged, McNeil took the opportunity to free-roll … and he took advantage of that to the extent that he made sure he went quick enough to take the others out of play. That was the great thing about the ride.
“Might And Power was challenged at the 1000. He was challenged at the 600m and he had to fight at the finish … and the way he fought was remarkable.
“This year’s winner … well, I nearly picked it at the 1000, because the had the favourite within a length of him, but the favourite couldn’t travel up to him. So, what’s that telling you?
“He’s got 53.5kg and he took the other twenty-two off the bit. Simply took them out of the race.
“For a young man riding in his first Melbourne Cup it was a remarkable ride. He took it to them. He made them chase.
“I was very proud of him. He did something that was quite outstanding … and it paid off,” concluded Cassidy.
That praise, coming from a man who has been inducted in both the Australian Racing Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame … and who has the no small matter of 104 Group 1 wins behind his name … underlines just how brilliant McNeil’s and Twilight Payment’s accomplishment was on that famous first Tuesday in November.
When you get that level of appreciation from the man who clearly has the best credentials to evaluate your performance, you know you have done something exceptional.
Judging on past history, chances are we are going to have to wait a long time before we see the likes of it again!