AN emotional Seona Thompson joined her champion husband Jason as a Melbourne Cup-winning trainer last Friday night when favourite Aston Dee Bee claimed a deserved Group 1 triumph in the world’s richest race.
Aston Dee Bee, which is raced by prominent breeder Ray Borda, gave the Thompson family their fourth Melbourne Cup victory, with Jason having won the great race with Light Of Fire (1994), Got A Moment (2012) and Black Magic Opal (2013).
While Seona has played an integral role in the previous wins, this time the responsibility fell solely on her diminutive but determined shoulders, when Jason was handed a six-month disqualification, with one month of the ban suspended, on the eve of the Cup series, and she met the daunting challenge head-on.
“It was awesome,” a delighted Seona said.
“It was a big couple of weeks, but I didn’t feel any pressure. I was just stoked to have two dogs in the Melbourne Cup and I wouldn’t have swapped Aston Dee Bee and Bewildering for anything else in the race. When Aston Dee Bee drew box one he had an even bigger chance.
“Jason and I do the dogs together and we work hard all year to hopefully have dogs good enough for the Melbourne Cup, but then to have to do everything on my own two weeks out from the race wasn’t easy.
“A lot of people say it’s easy for them, they just put their dogs in the wife’s name, but at the moment Jason can’t have anything to do with the dogs and that’s the way it has to be.
“I was really proud of myself and the kids – Luke and Holly really stepped up – and there were a lot of tears after the race. I finally got composed on the dais and then I saw my dad (Ron Hood) crying and I started crying again. I think I was just relieved that it was all over.”
Aston Dee Bee, a superbly bred April ’15 son of Barcia Bale and Aston Elle, a Bombastic Shiraz – Elite Oriental litter sister to 2010 Melbourne Cup finalist Aston Galilee, was making his ninth appearance in a Group event, with an overdue feature victory having proven frustratingly elusive.
Aston Dee Bee had won 10 of his previous 14 starts, with his four defeats all minor placings in Group finals, having finished second in the Topgun, Adelaide Cup and Healesville Cup and third in the National Sprint Championship.
Aston Dee Bee was the fastest qualifier for the Melbourne Cup after winning his heat in a scintillating 29.12 and he started $2.40 favourite after drawing box one, from where he’d won four of his five career starts, all four victories coming at Sandown.
Kennelmate Bewildering, a son of 2013 Melbourne Cup hero Black Magic Opal, was the $4.40 second elect from box six after claiming his heat in 29.35.
Aston Dee Bee began well and after trailing Up Hill Jill ($9.30) and Raw Ability ($5) going into the first turn, he drove to the lead soon after and quickly opened up a decisive advantage as he defeated outsider Chasin’ Crackers ($16.40) by 3.75 lengths in 29.36.
It was his 27th victory from 48 starts and the $420,000 winner’s purse saw his career prizemoney tally skyrocket to $631,025, tenth on the all-time Australian list.
“I just thought it would happen how it did happen,” Thompson said.
“Everyone thought there would be a mad charge to the first turn, but I thought there would only be two or three dogs, which there was. I knew Aston Dee Bee would hold the fence, because he’s just racing so confidently and at 36 kilos he’s a big boy, and I thought he would take the lead going through the catching pen.
“I had the two strongest dogs in the race, but I knew Aston Dee Bee would be running time in front and Bewildering would need everything to go right to make a good race of it.
“I thought Bewildering’s run to finish fourth was brilliant and he was very unlucky not to run a place.
“Aston Dee Bee is just putting it all together now. We pre-trained him, which we don’t do very often, and we knew from the start he was something special.
“In his first eight to ten starts he kept bombing the start, he was very green and didn’t have much confidence, but all of a sudden he just grew up and everything has clicked.”
Aston Dee Bee will now head to Ballarat for Saturday night’s heats of the Group 2 Ballarat Cup, where’s he’s drawn box six in heat five, while Bewildering, which ran fourth in the Melbourne Cup, will exit box four in the fourth heat.