Western Envoy avenged his heartbreaking Melbourne Cup defeat when turning the tables on Whiskey Riot in Saturday night’s Group 2 VW Ballarat Cup Final (450m).
Agonisingly for trainer Angela Langton, who also bred and races Western Envoy in partnership with her mother Sue Smith, he was edged out by Whiskey Riot in a thrilling finish to last month’s Melbourne Cup Final.
However, that disappointment was eased, if not erased, when Western Envoy emulated his mother, Shared Equity, which won the Ballarat Cup in 2015, where the great Fernando Bale finished fifth as $1.10 favourite.
“It’s nice obviously to get one back on him,” victorious handler Matt Lanigan told GRV’s Molly Haines.
“Anthony (Azzopardi) and Whiskey Riot thoroughly deserved the Melbourne Cup but I was glad when the number one went up on the semaphore board that we’d got one back. It was a good race.
“I know how much this one means to Angela and to everyone involved with the dog back in WA as well. I’m sure Angela will be celebrating and very happy with it.
“He is a really special dog to me. I got to handle him on his first start and I think I’ve probably handled him on most of his wins. It’s a huge thrill to be able to do this for Jeff (Britton) and Angela and repay the faith that they have shown in me as well.”
After finishing a close second to Bendigo Cup winner Crimson Vixen, beaten less than a length, in his Ballarat heat, Western Envoy was an $8 chance in the $47,000 to-the-winner final, exiting box one for the second week running.
Whiskey Riot, which was also beaten in his heat, started $3.10 favourite from box seven, with exciting NSW youngster La Grand Quality, the fastest qualifier, at $4.30.
Crimson Vixen ($5.90) flew out to lead with ease, while Western Envoy settled in second.
Crimson Vixen led turning for home as Western Envoy hooked threateningly to the centre of the track, with Whiskey Riot railing powerfully into contention.
Western Envoy and Whiskey Riot drove to the line together and this time the photo favoured Western Envoy, which scored by .19 of a length in a fast 24.85s, with Crimson Vixen third and La Grand Quality close-up in fourth.
“I knew Crimson Vixen would be better for the run last week, hearing what Norm (McCullagh) said during the week, so when it got out in front I was just hoping that he was going to be strong enough to get over the top of it,” Lanigan said.
“I could see Whiskey Riot coming as well. It was an awesome race and just a huge thrill to be part of it.”
It was a breakthrough success at Group level for Western Envoy, which had previously contested the Melbourne Cup (2nd), Vic Peters Classic (4th) and Maturity Classic (5th), all at Group 1 level.
“Jeff and Angela will decide on what’s next but I know the Silver Chief is coming up in a couple of weeks and obviously he’s got a tremendous record at The Meadows,” Lanigan said.
“He loves it there and I think he’s actually better suited to two-turns so I think the plan would be to go there.”
The Ballarat Cup Consolation, worth $9,800 to-the-winner, went to Slingshot Hammer ($5.20), which prevailed in a thrilling duel with Mepunga Daniel ($5.90), clocking 24.94s.
Trained by Robert Camilleri, Slingshot Hammer was now won 31 of his 74 starts.
Emerald Rainbow, trained by David Geall, was an all-the-way of the Summer Classic Grade 5 Final (450m), earning $7,000 for his 25.23s success.
It was one of the best Ballarat Cup finishes we have seen and it was Western Envoy who came out on top. Handler Matt Lanigan talked us through the emotion this wins means to connections all over Australia.
Photos by Clint Anderson