Jye McNeil was left feeling "overwhelmed" after guiding Twilight Payment to victory in the Melbourne Cup on his debut appearance at the prestigious Australian horse race on Tuesday.
Twilight Payment's triumph at Flemington racecourse landed trainer Joseph O’Brien his second Melbourne Cup in four years, while presenting a seventh success in the race for owner Lloyd Williams.
Joseph’s father Aidan had to once again settle for a runner-up finish behind his son after Irish Derby victor, and pre-race favourite Tiger Moth failed to reel in the winner. It followed a similar pattern as the 2017 Melbourne Cup when Joseph’s Rekindling beat Aidan's Johannes Vermeer.
Prince Of Arran, trained in the UK by Charlie Fellowes and with Jamie Kah atop, ran another superb race to take third in the silks of Emirati businessman Saeed bel Obaida.
But the race belonged to Twilight Payment and McNeil, who went to the front soon after the start, trailed by Tiger Moth and closely followed by Vow And Declare, last year’s winner, and Oceanix.
Tiger Moth dropped down the order and then picked up towards the end, but Twilight Payment stayed the stronger for a half-a-length victory.
Prince Of Arran, who was third in 2018 and runner-up last year, was a further head behind in third.
“I’m absolutely stoked I could pull it off,” an ecstatic McNeil said. “There’s too many emotions, it’s a very big moment.
“I’m not worried about the [empty] grandstands at all. To get the opportunity to partner Twilight Payment, it’s very overwhelming.
“It was the plan to always be forward. Obviously with where he was in the market I wasn’t feeling a lot of pressure, but when you have got to go forward there is some pressure to get it right. Thankfully, it all came together.
“I was trying to use my voice to encourage him as much as possible to hang on, and he was very tough.”
O'Brien, who was watching from home in Ireland, said it was “incredibly special”, adding he would have loved to have been at the racecourse to witness the win.
“Jye gave the horse an incredible ride and credit has to go to Lloyd and Nick Williams, they really felt this horse had a big chance in the race this year," O'Brien, 27, said.
“Mark Power, Sean Corby and my team of lads that have been down in Melbourne for the last number of weeks have done an incredible job with not only him but all the horses that we have there. They presented them in fantastic condition and credit has to go with them.”
The race was sadly tarnished by the death of Aidan O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyck after the 2019 English Derby winner suffered a fractured fetlock. It is the seventh death in the race from the past eight years.