- French-trained Dunaden wins prestigious Melbourne Cup race on Tuesday
- Winning jockey Christophe Lemaire was a late replacement for the event
- Dunaden wins by the smallest of margins from Red Cadeaux after photo-finish
- Pre-race favorite and defending champion Americain finishes back in fourth
Top French jockey Christophe Lemaire could not believe his luck after winning one of horse-racing's biggest prizes in dramatic fashion in Australia on Tuesday.
The 32-year-old was able to ride at the Melbourne Cup only because Dunaden's usual mount Craig Williams was serving a ban for careless riding, and he had never seen the famed Flemington raceway before Monday.
Flown in by the French-trained stayer's owner Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani, Lemaire triumphed by the narrowest of margins after a photo-finish with Britain's Red Cadeaux in the 151st running of the prestigious event.
"I was a bit anxious after the line," Lemaire told reporters after claiming the $6.4 million first prize for the Qatari. "A rider on a pony told me they thought I had won and then when I turned the corner back towards the stands, everyone was applauding me.
"I wasn't supposed to ride him and didn't know until yesterday. Craig must be devastated and I hope he recovers quickly and that he will win many more big races.
"Two years ago I had a fall before Arc weekend and I missed winning four Group One races so I know what it is like to watch in your armchair. Unfortunately it's part of a jockey's life."
Lemaire rated the victory as the second finest of his distinguished career, after the winning on Divine Proportions at the 2005 Prix de Diane in Chantilly in front of his family.
"Of course I have heard of the Melbourne Cup before, but the atmosphere and the passion here, it is really something special," he said.
Williams rode Dunaden to victory at the Geelong Cup warm-up as trainer Mikel Delzangles followed the example set by last year's winner Americain, who could only manage fourth on Tuesday behind German-bred Lucas Cranach.
"It's amazing. I thought I was beaten so it's even better," Delzangles said. "We knew he was a good stayer, but I thought the race was so difficult to win.
"Maybe thanks to Americain last year, it made us realize that it was possible to do it. We were just beaten in a Group Two at Longchamp (in May), then we decided that we should look at the Melbourne Cup.
"I would like to have a thought for Craig Williams. He did a great job in preparation for the horse and he has been a gentleman."