A trainer who thought his dream had come true a quarter of a century ago and a horse with more heart than he knew combined with a jockey who pulled off a miracle to fulfil a Cox Plate dream at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Greg Eurell, his mare Pinker Pinker and rider Craig Williams claimed Australia’s most prestigious race with an effort that mixed brilliance, courage and sheer good fortune.
Pinker Pinker ($26) had only a few horses behind her with 600m to run where Williams made a decision to stick to the fence and ride for luck.
Within the 200m the move paid off as Pinker Pinker slipped through inside most of the field and set out after New Zealander Jimmy Choux who had claimed the lead.
“I had the choice to go inside or outside and a run just came for me on the fence so I took it,” Williams said.
Pinker Pinker did the rest, rounding up Jimmy Choux ($6.50) with 100m to run and racing away to a 1-1/4 length win.
Rekindled Interest ($10) battled into third place a half neck further back.
For Eurell, a former Olympic equestrian, victory in the $3 million Cox Plate (2040m) came after he had already achieved his ultimate goal.
“My greatest ambition had always been to compete for Australia at an Olympic Games,” Eurell said.
“I always wondered if anything would surpass that.”
Eurell made the Australian team for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, competing in the individual and team showjumping.
“That was it for me, the top, number one,” he said.
“But this is unbelievable.”
Eurell had already made a big impression as a trainer thanks to his outstanding sprinter Apache Cat, the winner of six Group One races and more than $4.5 million prize money.
But even a personality horse like Apache Cat couldn’t provide the thrill of a Cox Plate.
“Apache was a marvel, so good to me,” Eurell said.
“To have a horse to rival him is more than I could have hoped for.
“But I have one, she is amazing.”
Pinker Pinker came into the Cox Plate as one of the lowest prize money earners in the field, the $1.8 million winner’s purse almost trebling her previous total.
“She’s a tribute to professionalism, that’s what she is, the ultimate professional,” Eurell said.
For Williams, the win was his second in the Cox Plate, following his 2006 success on Fields Of Omagh.
It also completed one of the most successful weeks in a career that has produced four Melbourne jockeys’ premierships.
Last Saturday, Williams won the Caulfield Cup aboard Southern Speed and on Wednesday he took the Geelong Cup on the French galloper Dunaden who he will ride in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday week.
Williams paid tribute to a horse who took him everywhere he asked her to go.
“When I asked her to be really tough in between horses she was game,” he said.
“Then I thought ‘now we’ve got to run down Jimmy Choux’,
“But once I gave her a little bit of a reminder and asked her to extend, it was never in doubt.
“She won with ease and she gave me a beautiful ride.”
The Cox Plate proved a disaster for punters, the heavily backed favourite Helmet dropping out after leading to finish eighth.
One of the best supported runner, King’s Rose ran a moderate seventh with Luke Nolen, fresh from the exhilaration of winning on Black Caviar, confessing he had “messed it up”.
Last year’s Victoria Derby winner Lion Tamer broke down in a hind leg after racing near the lead to the turn and finished last.