Gympie Melbourne Cup hero falls short in Flemington return
RACING: Gympie's Melbourne Cup hero Vow And Declare will take a break after a disappointing return to Flemington.
The four-year-old gelding looked a shadow of his usual self in the 2600m William Newton VC Handicap on Anzac Day.
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Carrying top weight, he failed to kick away in the straight after jumping well from barrier three and sitting fourth with 400 metres to go.
With Cup-winning jockey Craig Williams on board, he laboured in the straight as the Archie Alexander-trained Haky flew home for victory.
The heavily backed favourite finished fifth in the 13-horse field, two weeks after a disastrous ninth place in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes on a heavy Royal Randwick track.
Trainer Danny O'Brien denied Vow And Declare had not come up this campaign after two disappointing performances, but admitted his champion had been "below par".
"His Australian Cup rating was his best-ever rating, so you couldn't say he hasn't come up in the autumn," O'Brien said.
"Most of these things, whatever they might be, are generally solved by a little break."
Part owner Anthony Lanskey remained confident that Vow And Declare would bounce back after a rest.
"He just didn't come up … he didn't have his usual kick," Lanskey said.
"I think the trip to Sydney might have taken a bit more out of him than we thought and so Danny's put him out to the beach for another six weeks, and we'll bring him back and get him ready for the spring.
"Danny's pretty bullish about it."
Lanskey said Vow And Declare's gruelling 61kg burden was less to blame for Saturday's misstep than the trying conditions at Randwick two weeks earlier.
He said the trend was similar to Vow And Declare's form last year before the Melbourne Cup win.
"You look at him this time last year and he ran third first up on Anzac Day and had two fairly ordinary runs following that, which is a pretty similar pattern, and then we brought him up to Brisbane and he ran second in the Queensland Derby and then won the Tattersall's Cup," Lanskey said.
"Danny knows what he's doing and he's put him away for a few weeks to get a bit of R and R.
"Danny's got a property at Thirteenth Beach (near Barwon Heads in Victoria).
"The horses get to go to the beach every morning for a walk or a swim. In these times the horses have got it better than we do.
"We were a little bit disappointed but as long as he's in good condition. November's his grand final."
Williams told Racenet after Saturday's loss that Vow And Declare had raced "five lengths inferior to his best".