Billed as the greatest Melbourne Cup ever, the Green Moon chapter on Tuesday was a theatre of disappointment.
Starring the mastermind Lloyd Williams, Green Moon overwhelmed the lavishly promoted internationals Dunaden, Americain, and Red Cadeaux. They were previous heroes but badly caste this year when a Gone With The Wind crowd, estimated at 106,000, watched the race.
Dunaden had been mentioned in the same ability range as Makybe Diva. How could you compare Gerard Depardieu with Meryl Streep?
Glen Boss, rider of the champion mare, when asked how Makybe Diva would have gone on Tuesday. ''Four lengths easy,'' he replied regarding her winning margin. However, Boss said the easy tempo, described as ''farcical'' by Michael Rodd on Red Cadeaux (eighth), made it hard for any horse back in the field. Boss gave Kelinni, a bit player, the run of the race to take fourth placing.
The Melbourne Cup was slow and Green Moon, ridden by the Hong Kong-based Brett Prebble, recorded 45.24 seconds, a sprinting section, for his final 800 metres. Prebble rode perfectly to script, keeping out of trouble after an early hassle before producing a turn of hoof that made him unbeatable.
Often the scene stealer, Craig Williams - riding Dunaden - didn't get onto the stage.
''Wide barrier, too much weight, slow pace, nothing to take him into the race,'' Williams said with commendable brevity. ''He tried his heart out but everything went against him, particularly the tempo, when he needed everything to go his way.''
Williams rode Green Moon, the $5 favourite, when seventh to Ocean Park in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last start on October 27. Some said disappointing, others chuckled about the performance. Williams, no relation to the mastermind, was asked whether a stand-in filled the Green Moon role at Moonee Valley.
''I guess if Lloyd targeted the Cox Plate he would have won the Cox Plate, he targeted today and the Cox Plate was a stepping stone,'' Williams said.
On the quality of Green Moon, Nick Williams, son of Lloyd who directs the Team Williams operation off-course, said: ''Efficient would pick up and carry Green Moon.'' Efficient triumphed in the 2007 Melbourne Cup after an indifferent ninth in the Cox Plate. Obviously the Cox Plate is to Williams what the Mackinnon once was to Bart Cummings. Just A Dash (1981) gave Williams his first success in the Big One and he died last week.
And Nick Williams came up with the punchline on Green Moon and chuckled: ''We knew he was OK and it's terrific that we got $22.50, so God bless everyone that wrote him off.''
Even in absentia, Lloyd Williams shared the stage with Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess Of Cornwall. In 1985 Williams won the Melbourne Cup with What A Nuisance and Prince Charles was present with Diana, Princess Of Wales. ''Lady Di looked even better at Flemington than she did in pictures,'' Les Carlyon, the author, recalled.
But Gai Waterhouse, Australia's first lady, saw her star power return when Fiorente chased Green Moon home in a carnival during which her box-office appeal was on the wane.
''It's their first preparation,'' she said about Fiorente and Glencadam Gold, the pacemaker. Fiorente earned $900,000 for his part and Glencadam Gold (sixth) $125,000.
Damien Oliver was caste as a villain on Tuesday not only over whether he should have been riding Americain in regard to betting allegations but also of his handling of the eight-year-old. ''The slow pace killed him,'' Oliver said.
Americain added to his reputation of making jockeys look bad and ended 11th.
The Mount Athos backers, too, were whingeing about Americain's involvement in a ruckus with the Luca Cumani stayer on the turn. Mount Athos was the hard-luck story. Even with interference Mount Athos ran his last 800m in 45.25s, fractionally slower than the winner.
Local talents Ethiopia and Zabeelionaire again failed to flatter. Ethiopia, which did much better than Green Moon in the Cox Plate, was going back so fast at the turn James McDonald on Fiorente used it as an excuse to ''broadside'' Sanagas (Nicholas Hall).
McDonald was outed for 14 meetings. Ethiopia pulled up lame in last.
Zabeelionaire ended up 22nd after having the benefit of a herbal preparation on a hoof, regarded as treatment on the day of the race, and trainer Leon Corstens was fined $500 by stewards.
Surprisingly Jackkalberry, another last-start failure, in the Caulfield Cup, did best of the invaders, chopping out Kelinni from the minor placing.
''I'm getting a taste for this,'' declared Chris Waller, the Sydney-based trainer of Kelinni.
Obviously he likes it foreign and slow.