Racing purists will tell you it is the best day of the year.
With four Group 1 races, a spot in the Melbourne Cup up for grabs and an always-large Flemington crowd, Victoria Derby Day rarely fails to live up to its billing.
And Saturday’s meeting at Flemington, which kicked off the Melbourne Cup carnival, was no exception – a day highlighted by Extra Brut’s outstanding victory in the $1.2 million Victoria Derby.
More than 90,000 fans watched on as Irish jockey John Allen steered the $12.20 shot to glory in a fiercely run Derby that was too quick for short-priced favourite Thinkin’ Big.
Stars Of Carrum and Chapada finished second and third respectively.
EXTRA BRUT stays the journey in the AAMI Victoria Derby! pic.twitter.com/F7FbGqpJdp
— Racing.com (@Racing) November 3, 2018
There was joy for Sunlight, Shillelagh and Best Of Days in the day’s other Group 1 races, too, as Melbourne’s often-fickle weather played ball to the delight of Victoria Racing Club beancounters.
While the quality of racing on Derby Day is always a feature, the glitz and glamour is another key feature, and Elle Macpherson’s appearance turned heads in the Birdcage.
So-called ‘international party boy’ Scott Disick – a celebrity, apparently, and best known for his role in Keeping Up With The Kardashians – was at Flemington, too, while there was genuine sporting royalty in attendance in the form of Ricky Ponting, Ian Thorpe and Chris Judd.
Sprint king Usain Bolt was also at the track, less than 24 hours after having his A-League dream dashed by the Central Coast Mariners.
And while that story – an eight-time Olympic gold medallist and the fastest man in the world switching codes and failing to make it as an Australian footballer – is the sort of thing that will really puzzle people in 20 years time, Darren Weir winning Group 1 races will not.
Extra Brut provided the superstar trainer with his 34th Group 1 success and took Weir’s career prize money past a staggering $140 million.
The only thing surprising was that Extra Brut was Weir’s first entrant in the famous race. It did not take him long.
Allen rewarded for bold move
The tempo was hot in the big race and Allen made his move before the straight, going wide for a clear run.
And while he burst to the lead with 300m remaining, punters who backed Extra Brut had their hearts in their mouths as Stars of Carrum charged home late in the piece.
Extra Brut fought on impressively, though, recording a victory that Allen did not think was coming.
“I thought I got the front way too soon, but all credit to him – he toughed it out,” Allen admitted afterwards.
“He was disappointing last time [and] we were scratching our heads a little bit, but back on a firmer track today and a truer tempo, everything fell into our hands today beautifully.
“I let the horse do the rest. To win on a day like today in front of a huge crowd … I couldn’t be happier.”
Those involved in the Extra Brut syndicate – and there seemed like hundreds – celebrated wildly after the race, singing Allen’s name and causing a scene.
Weir was extremely happy for Allen, citing his intense workrate as a reason he deserved to triumph.
“Out of all the jockeys, he works extra hard,” he said.
“He’s there every day doing the track work and helping us out. It’s great for him to be a part of it. I’m rapt.”
Those involved with Chapada were gutted afterwards, claiming the third-placed horse should have won. A lack of room cost the three-year-old bay gelding, who stormed to the line.
The other Group 1 races
James Cummings, grandson of the late, great Bart, trained three winners on Saturday, including Best Of Days, the Godolphin horse winning the Kennedy Mile and paying $11.60 in the process.
James McDonald produced a superb ride on board Shillelagh ($6.60) to record victory in the Empire Rose Stakes for trainer Chris Waller.
And that helped put a positive spin on Waller’s day after two of his horses, Cousin and Lean Mean Machine, ran second and third in the Coolmore Stud Stakes, toppled by Tony McEvoy’s Sunlight ($5).
The other big race on Saturday was the Lexus Stakes, which gives the winner a spot in Tuesday’s $7.3 million Melbourne Cup, with English horse A Prince Of Arran ($4.60) proving too good.