Twilight Payment wins Melbourne Cup with no fans

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MELBOURNE: The race that stops a nation also saw tens of thousands of spectators prevented from attending one of the biggest single-day sporting events in Australia.

But like a familiar refrain in 2020, blame Covid-19.

Irish-bred Twilight Payment, ridden by Jye McNeil and trained by Irishman Joseph O’Brien, gave Australian owner Lloyd Williams his seventh win in the Melbourne Cup.

Twilight Payment led virtually the entire race in the 3,200-metre (2-mile) classic at Flemington. Tiger Moth was second by about half a length and Britain’s Prince of Arran placed third for the third consecutive year.

Tiger Moth was trained by Joseph O’Brien’s father, Aidan. The younger O’Brien won his first Melbourne Cup in 2017 when Rekindling beat Johannes Vermeer, trained by his father.

The race was marred by a horse 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck breaking down early in the race and having to be euthanized. It was the seventh horse since 2013 to be put down after racing in the Melbourne Cup.

Anthony Van Dyck, ridden by veteran jockey Hugh Bowman, broke down at the 400-metre mark and had to be euthanized. Tiger Moth’s stablemate had carried top weight. Anthony Van Dyck raced 19 times in five countries and collected five other wins to go alongside his English Derby triumph. Bowman was not injured in the accident.

In another setback for the race, jockey Kerrin McEvoy was fined 50,000 Australian dollars ($35,600) for breaching Australian racing’s whip rules while riding runner-up Tiger Moth.

Stewards found McEvoy struck the Irish stayer 13 times before the 100-metre mark and 21 times overall.

It was the first time in the race first held in 1861 that the Melbourne Cup was held without spectators. Flemington often attracts a crowd of up to 100,000 for the event.

But Melbourne is only just coming out of lockdown following a spike in second-wave Covid-19 infections in Victoria state and the easing of restrictions didn’t extend to large crowd sizes.