Twilight Payment on target for Cup defence

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A campaign that was at a crossroads less than six months ago has come together in time for Twilight Payment to mount a serious challenge on the Melbourne Cup record books.

And remarkably, it seems the Irish-trained but Australian-owned stayer returns to Melbourne as a nine-year-old in better form than 12 months ago when he made all the running to win Australia’s greatest race.

Twilight Payment will be trying to become the first horse to successfully defend a Melbourne Cup since Makybe Diva won her third in 2005.

It almost wasn’t meant to be after a minor setback following the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in England.

Yet aside from the logistics involved in getting to Australia this year because of stringent veterinarian rules, Twilight Payment has since trained on without incident for Joseph O’Brien.

So much so, the stayer will go into Tuesday having finished runner-up in the Irish St Leger, a placing that was one better than his final lead-in run in the same race last year.

As far as form over an extended distance, there isn’t much better going around.

And part-owner Nick Williams says this will be an advantage for Twilight Payment and the UK stayer Spanish Mission in their bid to topple the Caulfield Cup winner Incentivise.

“Our horse and Spanish Mission are proven over the distance at the absolute top level in the world,” Williams told Racing.com.

“We’ll see on Tuesday whether Incentivise is up to that level at that trip.”

Twilight Payment is the Melbourne Cup topweight with 58.5kg after being asked to carry 3kg more than 2020 as he tries to become the oldest winner of the race.

But Williams said it was a testament to the all-conquering O’Brien yard that Twilight Payment had thrived since being in Australia.

“He looks terrific. He’s a very happy horse and a very fit horse and it looks like he is going into the race in great order,” Williams said.

Jye McNeil will reunite with Twilight Payment and he seems certain to be given instructions to adopt the tactics that worked so well last year.

“He’ll roll forward again, that’s the way he likes to race,” O’Brien said.

“He doesn’t have to lead but he’s very comfortable on the lead.”

Twilight Payment and Spanish Mission are the only overseas-trained horses in the race and they are the closest in betting to Incentivise.

But a retired two-time Cup-winning jockey says the Australian stayer will be too good.

Jim Cassidy said it might be a case how far the winning margin will be at Flemington.

“I think (Incentivise) will make it a chase, not a race. He will win the Melbourne Cup,” Cassidy told Sky Sports Radio.

“I’ll be betting on how far he wins by.”

Incentivise was put through his last piece of work at Pakenham on Sunday morning.

In keeping with how he has trained Incentivise since the Caulfield Cup, Peter Moody said his latest stable star wasn’t out to break the clock.

“He’s done everything asked of him since his Caulfield Cup win. He’s done very little fast work, he hasn’t needed it,” Moody said.

“Fitness levels are very good and health and wellbeing are very good.”

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