“Unbelievable,” Cassidy said. “It was nothing but outstanding.
“He backed himself and that’s what good jockeys do. He took the bull by the horns, got him to relax and he bowled along at a good tempo. He made it a chase, not a race. And they weren’t good enough to beat him.
“Even a champion horse [Tiger Moth] with 52.5 kilos couldn’t pick him up. It was brilliant horsemanship. I’ve done it from the front and last to first [with Kiwi], so I know what it’s like. It was an outstanding performance.”
Twilight Payment ($26) finished 11th in last year’s Cup, but returned to hold off second-favourite Tiger Moth ($6.50) by a long neck. The fast-finishing Prince Of Arran ($9.50) was a further short neck behind, the third straight year he has finished in the placings.
Williams said on Monday he would send his two runners, Twilight Payment and Master Of Reality, forward in the early stages. The former staved off a late challenge from Tiger Moth, ridden by McEvoy as he tried to equal the record for most Cup wins (four).
It was the fastest Melbourne Cup run since Media Puzzle won in 2002.
“It was the plan to always be forward,” McNeil said. “Obviously, with where he was in the market, I wasn’t feeling a lot of pressure, but when you’ve got to go forward like that, there is some pressure in getting it right. Thankfully, it all came together.
“To be able to get the opportunity from the Williams family to partner Twilight Payment, not only them but Joseph O’Brien, who has done a fantastic job preparing him, it is very overwhelming. Too many emotions. It’s a very big moment.”
Payne, 28, said she was unsure whether she would return to the saddle as baby Oakley stayed awake to watch her father’s achievement.
“I thought, ‘geez, they’re daring tactics’,” Payne said. “But he rated it so well. When it gave a kick, I was like, ‘oh my god, it’s going great’. He was still travelling. He definitely rode it better than I could.
“It’s what dreams are made of. I’m sure he didn’t go out there with the expectation he was going to win it, which is probably a great thing because there’s no added pressure on him.
“Everyone is cursing 2020, but for us it’s been a blessing in disguise. We ended up with Oakley and Jye has achieved so much this year. It was a shame he didn’t get to do it in front of a crowd, but that doesn’t matter.”
McEvoy may never get a better chance to equal the Cup record of Harry White and Bobby Lewis. He landed the lightly weighted Tiger Moth, having just his fifth start, in a perfect position despite a wide draw.
“The winner kept running,” McEvoy said. “I just had to pick up to get into the race, which he did, but the winner was just a bit strong today. It was a great run for a young horse having only his fifth start in a race. He’s run really well.”
It was the perfect end to 80-year-old Williams’ day, which started on a sour note when one of his three runners, King Of Leogrance, was scratched due to lameness. It was Williams’ third Cup win in five years.
Favourite Surprise Baby ($6) was shuffled back through the field in the straight the first time and disappointed in 13th.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.