Twilight Payment looks for 2nd straight win in Melbourne Cup

Sports

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)Irish-trained and Australian-owned nine-year-old Twilight Payment will attempt to become the first horse to successfully defend a Melbourne Cup since Makybe Diva won her third in a row in 2005 in Tuesday’s race at Flemington.

The stayer will go into the 3,200-meter race having finished runner-up in the 2,800-meter Irish St. Leger, a placing that was one better than his final lead-in run in the same race last year.

Part-owner Nick Williams says the St. Leger finish will be an advantage for Twilight Payment and British stayer Spanish Mission in their bid to beat Caulfield Cup winner and favorite Incentivise.

”Our horse and Spanish Mission are proven over the distance at the absolute top level in the world,” Williams said. ”We’ll see on Tuesday whether Incentivise is up to that level at that trip.”

Twilight Payment is the Melbourne Cup top weight with 58.5 kilograms (129 pounds) after being asked to carry 3 kg (6.6 pounds) more than 2020 as he tries to become the oldest winner of the race.

Jye McNeil will ride Twilight Payment.

”He’ll roll forward again, that’s the way he likes to race,” Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien said of Twilight Payment. ”He doesn’t have to lead but he’s very comfortable on the lead.”

Twilight Payment and Spanish Mission are the only overseas-trained horses in the race and they are the closest in betting to Incentivise.

Twilight Payment drew Barrier 2 while Incentivise will need to overcome a wide barrier after drawing Barrier 16 in the 24-horse race.

Incentivise, to be ridden by Brett Prebble, has won his past nine starts. Craig Williams has been booked to ride Spanish Mission.

Incentivise trainer Peter Moody said his horse has taken it easy in training since his win in the 2,400-meter Caulfield Cup on Oct. 16.

”He’s done everything asked of him . . . very little fast work, he hasn’t needed it,” Moody said. ”Fitness levels are very good and health and well-being are very good.”

With Melbourne only recently coming out of a lengthy lockdown due to COVID-19, Flemington, which can accommodate up to 120,000 race-goers, will be restricted to 10,000 fully-vaccinated spectators. The forecast is for dry weather and a high of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) for the race first held in 1861.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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