How the horse that couldn't be sold won the Melbourne Cup
IN just over two short years Vow and Declare has transformed from a horse that couldn't be sold by a Noosa breeder into a coveted Melbourne Cup champion.
The four-year-old gelding triumphed in the $8 million race that stops a nation in thrilling style on Tuesday, with jockey Craig Williams guiding his charge to victory by a nose.
It's a far cry from the 2017 Inglis Classic Sale that Vow and Declare was entered into in 2017, where he was an unwanted talent.
Noosa-based breeder Paul Lanskey originally tried to sell the gelding for $60,000 but when bidding fell $15,000 short of his reserve, he took him home and convinced family and friends to come on board as owners.
He owned the gelding's dam, Geblitzt, and was part of the process which decided Declaration Of War (USA) as the sire.
Vow and Declare was slow to get going, not placing in his first three races, but victory on Oaks day last year offered more than a promising sign for what was to come.
In a remarkable rags to riches tale, Vow and Declare repaid Lanskey and five other first-time Gympie owners in spades with the Cup.
"It's just an unbelievable thrill. Never in a million years … I don't even know too many people who have runners in the Cup," Lanskey told the Courier Mail.
"To be here and be part of it and have such a good horse. Gee he's a tough horse. He was headed and I thought we were gone, a place will have to do, but he just fights back.
Lanskey has been breeding for 15 years, but only has a couple of mares, with Geblitzt calling Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley home.
"She has a Star Witness filly going to the Magic Millions and has a filly at foot by Shalaa and has just been served by American Pharoah," Lanskey said. "I will have to try and keep a filly along the way, because it's a real top family."
Gympie State High School principal, and Lanskey's nephew, Anthony, are also among the owners along with his two sons Lachlan and Ben.
Gympie's deputy mayor Bob Leitch is in the mix too.
"It was a very explosive end to it and all the emotions come out at once," Leitch said.
"I am very much lost for words. Gympie's loving it mate. They're all on!"
Anthony was still in shock about what had transpired.
"I don't think it's sunk in. It's the dream of a lifetime," Anthony said.
"I spoke about how our family has been involved in racing for years. Grandad's brother Freddy was a trainer in Cairns and was training into his 90s.
"For the family, this is just incredible to have a horse that Paul bred. I am unbelievably proud and I'm sharing it with my boys."
Sunshine Coast resident and former Melbourne Cup winner Sheila Laxon watched on from Corbould Park in Caloundra and was ecstatic to see the Australian horse cross first.
"I'm thrilled that the Aussies have won the cup back," she said.
"I thought it was a super ride and a really cool ride by Craig.
"I think he just rode it very cannily to do that and I think if you set your mind to being where you want to be you can achieve that.
Laxon was the first female thoroughbred horse trainer to win the Australian cups double, the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup, with her mare Ethereal in 2001.
She expected Coast connections to be beside themselves with joy and urged them to savour the moment.
"They'd be on cloud nine and rolling with the punches," she said.
"It'll all be a big blur and all the celebrations going on and where they're going tonight and everything like that.
"It's a roller-coaster for quite a long time."
Jockey Williams was ecstatic to get his first win in 16 attempts.
"It was a privilege to ride him today. We had a difficult barrier draw. The instructions, we trusted him. We know what we can do," jockey Williams said.
"Great to be associated with a great horse like this horse. I rode him on debut and Winx won a maiden years ago.
"He knows he has won and again… I'm so grateful to be given the opportunity."
Trainer Danny O'Brien said he couldn't believe it.
"An amazingly special thing to happen," he said.
"Feel incredibly blessed to have a horse good enough to be in it and then for him to be ridden so beautifully by Craig.
"The last hundred he wouldn't give in and put his head out on the line and now we have won the Melbourne Cup."