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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 10:32 GMT
European racing's golden year
Ethereal arrives late to deny Give the Slip
Ethereal (13) just edges out Give the Slip
BBC Sport racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght reflects on a memorable campaign as European horses shine in the Melbourne Cup.

European racing's annus mirabilis just keeps on going.

It's been a magnificent season in Europe, and America in the Breeders' Cup.

And now they have come so close to nearly winning the Melbourne Cup in perhaps the hardest environment of all.

The performances by Godolphin's Give the Slip and the David Elsworth-trained Persian Punch to be second and third behind winner Ethereal are magnificent.

And clearly along with the success of the New Zealand-trained winner, it has left the Aussies choking on their Tooheys.

Punters over there are probably sick about the whole thing.


It is hard to remember a better year for European racing
Cornelius Lysaght

British racing can, to an extent, claim the winner, as we always do on these occasions.

The winning trainer Sheila Laxon is now based in New Zealand, but comes from Pontypridd in south Wales.

She used to work for the top English trainer John Dunlop in Sussex.

Europe's achievement in Australia should not be under-estimated.

Crossing the Atlantic to race in America is one thing, and the horses appeared to adapt to it at the Breeders' Cup.

Going all the way to Australia, with the travel and quarantine that is involved, and to have the horses pretty much spot-on is a terrific effort by Godolphin and David Elsworth.

It looked to the whole world as though Give the Slip had given them all the slip.

This was a great performance of stamina, not just over the two-mile trip but going across the world, and toughness after a long hard season.

Trainer Sheila Laxon lifts the Melbourne Cup
Sheila takes a bow: Laxon has Welsh connections

Give the Slip, so often a pacemaker for Fantastic Light, proved he is a very good horse in his own right.

Persian Punch was conceding years and weight to everything.

He must be some horse to run so well just a couple of months after winning the Goodwood Cup and finishing an epic second in the Gold Cup at Ascot.

In Persian Punch and Desert Orchid, David Elsworth has trained two of the most popular horses of the last 15 years.

Let's hope they decide to keep Persian Punch in training as a nine-year-old next year. It would be lovely to see if he could have another go.

The only European winner in 141 runnings of the Melbourne Cup was Ireland's Vintage Crop in 1993, and people have wondered if it can ever be repeated.

Clearly it can be done, as demonstrated by going so close this time with horses higher in the handicap because of their exertions in Europe.

It is just a matter of time before it happens.

They say this race brings Australia to a halt, but it may not be long before it brings Europe to a halt as well.

As for 2001, it is hard to remember a better year for European racing, to have done so well at home, and in America, and to so nearly strike gold down under.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Jim McGrath
"Give the Slip so nearly carried off Australia's most coveted prize"
Give the Slip jockey Richard Hill
"We nearly nicked it at the end"
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford
"Give the Slip gave everything and just got caught on the line"
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