Vow and Declare wins Melbourne Cup in thrilling finish

Vow and Declare took out a thrilling Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Tuesday afternoon, the Australian stayer beating a host of international raiders to give jockey Craig Williams and trainer Danny O'Brien their first wins in the "race that stops a nation."

The Australian four-year-old worked up the rails in the straight to edge out Prince of Arran and Il Paradiso after Master of Reality, who had finished second, was relegated to fourth following a stewards' protest.

Prince of Arran's promotion to second following the protest meant that the Charlie Fellowes-trained stayer improved one place from its third-place finish in 2018. It was the first protest in the Cup since 1991.

In a desperate finish, Vow and Declare triumphed by half a head.

There had been little tempo in the race before the final 1000 metres as Twilight Payment led into the straight, but once they turned for home the contenders spread out across the track for the run to the post.

Having taken Vow and Declare back to the rail earlier in the race Williams was left with clean air in the straight, which allowed the jockey to push his mount perfectly into stride before he had to endure some late jostling to emerge victorious.

Master of Reality, who led the race into the final 100 metres, drifted back to the inside which forced Il Paradiso to bump into Vow and Declare; a move which left the stewards with little choice but to penalise Master of Reality and jockey Frankie Dettori.

But that was of no concern to Williams who at last tasted Melbourne Cup glory at his 15th attempt.

"I was just lucky enough to sit on Vow and Declare; credit to Danny O'Brien...I don't want to name everyone in the stable but without all their hard work we don't have this horse," an emotional Williams told Channel 10.

"Danny O'Brien's got a fantastic story with him [Vow and Declare] and it was a privilege to ride him today...look at him, he knows he won."

O'Brien paid tribute to Williams' and his ride on Vow and Declare.

"It's an amazingly special thing to happen, I really can't believe it," O'Brien told Channel 10. "I just 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 100 he wouldn't give in, he wouldn't give in, and put his head out at the line and now we've won the Melbourne Cup."

O'Brien said he had given Williams no specific instruction pre-race and that the jockey's decision to ride him up near the front of the pack had ultimately proved a masterstroke.

"I left it [race plan] completely up to Craig, and it's been the winning move hasn't it? He rolled the dice like he does, he's an outstanding jockey; he wasn't afraid to try something different than what the map probably said and ultimately it's been the winning move."

Vow and Declare paid $11.60 with bookmakers tab.com.au while Prince of Arran [$5], Il Paradiso [$7] and Master of Reality rounding out the first four placings.