Michael Gudinski’s fellow owners have massive shoes to fill in the partying stakes after the late Australian music legend’s horse, Homesman, claimed a thrilling Australian Cup at Flemington.
Gudinski’s son, Matt, had the honour of leading Homesman back to scale as family and close friends and owners, including Nick Williams and Gerry Ryan, held back tears.
The $900,000 first prize meant little. Instead it was the emotion of a final victory in partnership with their great mate, Gudinski, who died suddenly in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"Homesman, with the music man cheering above."
What a great call.
Homesman is your Australian Cup winner 🏆 pic.twitter.com/wQVqcp0Tqb
The usually talkative Williams kept post-race comments short and to the point, as the impact of the weeks’ events became apparent.
“There’s only one Michael Gudinski!’” Williams roared.
As Matt Gudinski hugged winning jockey Jye McNeil in the Flemington mounting yard, Williams, standing nearby alongside Jayco boss Ryan, looked up and pointed to the sky.
Gudinski did it tough in the early days building up his Mushroom empire, traits the gutsy Homesman channelled to win the Australian Cup.
Matt Gudinski and Jye McNeil celebrate Homesman’s win in the Australian Cup. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Co-trainer Sam Freedman and jockey McNeil both paid tribute to Gudinski’s racing legacy.
“He was very close to the family,” Freedman said.
“Dad (Anthony) had some very fond memories with him back in the nineties and early 2000s.
“He (Homesman) certainly had some help out there.”
McNeil, who shared last year’s Melbourne Cup success with Gudinski, rode with a heavy heart.
“It’s a very special win because we all lost Michael during the week,” McNeil said.
Australian music legend Michael Gudinski died last week. Picture: Mushroom CreativeSource:Supplied
“Condolences to his friends and family and he was definitely riding with me out there today.”
Homesman’s emotion-charged victory was before 12,000 members and racing fans at Flemington, the largest post-COVID crowd on a Victorian racecourse since the corresponding meeting last year.
Spiritual leader Gudinski, who led celebrations for three Melbourne Cup wins in the Williams family silks, unfortunately wasn’t there to lead the charge to the nearest watering hole on Saturday night.
But Williams vowed to do his mate proud.
Homesman dug deep to win the Australian Cup in a photo finish. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“You see all these young people here today, he’s (Gudinski) he’s had some input to that,” Williams told Channel 7.
“He’s a man that’s absolutely changed the culture of our town, of our city, and of our country.
“It’s wonderful to have been able to call him a friend, incredibly sad time, his memory lives on with his kids and wife, who are both great friends of ours.
“We’re celebrating Michael’s life, which was really about five lives put into one.”
Ryan joined in the emotional celebrations, despite also owning the beaten favourite Fifty Stars.
“We still expect him to walk in with that finger in the air, ‘I’m here!’” Ryan told Channel 7.
“He’d light up a room.”
A touching moment.
Michael Gudinski's son leads in Homesman. pic.twitter.com/Mgl9bMU2eA
HOMESMAN TACTICS PROVE LLOYD RIGHT
Lloyd Williams has been credited for the tactical genius in Homesman winning the Group 1 $1.5m Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington.
Williams’ instructions to ride the gallant War Front gelding like a “European horse” proved to be a masterstroke.
The noted on-pacer stalked the speed under Jye McNeil, who combined with Williams to win the Melbourne Cup last year, and surged to the post to hold out Best Of Days in a driving finish.
After the emotion-charged victory for the horse part-owned by the late Australian music icon Michael Gudinski, co-trainer Sam Freedman paid tribute to Williams’ brilliance.
The connections of Homesman celebrate with Michael Gudinski’s famous salute. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“We had a chat with Lloyd during the week and he had the idea to ride the horse out wide and ride him like a European horse, which is ultimately what he is,” Freedman, who trains in partnership with his father, Anthony, said.
“Particularly having a bit of room to move and one thing he’s got is that tenacity and that will to win. He’s now a two-time Group 1 winner … couldn’t quite get a slot in the All-Star Mile but this is maybe, a little bit better.”
Australian Cup favourite Fifty Stars never looked like getting a cart into the race, hemmed in on the rail, while the fancied Paradee endured a tough run but still finished fourth.
McNeil’s ride, while it looked ugly to those not privy to instructions, was executed to perfection as Homesman wore down Godolphin bolter Best Of Days.
Jye McNeil looks to the heavens after returning victorious on Homesman. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“It was a great tough performance by the horse, well prepared, great tactics by mainly Lloyd to come up with this. There was a plan of attack today and it all came off,” McNeil said.
“On the line I thought he was giving me everything he had.
“I felt he was starting to peak on his run and start to lay in a touch but he put it all on the track today and I’m super happy to get the win.”
Group 1 Underwood winner and 2018 Caulfield Cup runner-up Homesman’s deserved triumph is the second for the Williams family, who won the Australian Cup in 2010 with cult figure Zipping.
Zipping was coincidently at Flemington on Saturday as part of a Living Legends exhibition.
Originally published asHomesman orchestrates one last Cup win for Gudinski
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