Stayer Mark Twain writes ticket to the 2024 Melbourne Cup

American author Mark Twain wrote of the Melbourne Cup nearly 140 years ago and a horse of the same name could write his own piece of history after a stunning victory at Flemington.

New Zealand-trained Mark Twain came from near last in The Roy Higgins (2600m) on Saturday to claim a ballot exemption into the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington in November.

The Roy Higgins is one of four Flemington staying races that offers the winner ‘win and you’re in’ status into the Melbourne Cup.

Ridden by Michael Dee, Mark Twain ($9.50) scored a half-length win from Strawberry Rock ($10) with Mostly Cloudy ($7.50) a long neck away third.

The Roy Higgins was Mark Twain’s first start in Victoria after the Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained stayer raced at The Championships in Sydney last year.

Mark Twain finished tenth in the Australian Derby at Randwick last year, but James said the gelding was not suited on the heavy ground on that occasion.

“It was a bottomless track that day and other than that he has hardly ever blotted his copybook and no doubt that staying is the name of his game, and big tracks,” James said.

James had almost given up on his dream of having Mark Twain earn a start in the Melbourne Cup when he was struggling to keep in touch with the field.

“I can hardly believe that this horse did that today,” James said.

“At the 600 (metre mark) I have all but given up hope. He was flat catching the second-last horse, but the big expanse of Flemington has helped him.

“It was a mighty staying effort, and now that we have a golden ticket, it makes it a lot easier.”

Dee said Mark Twain had been a difficult ride, but the gelding was an out-and-out stayer.

“To be honest, I was just trying to get him around the track,” Dee said.

“We’re here at Flemington and he wanted to hang out on me the whole way and I didn’t have a lot of steering in the straight, but once he finally changed legs and balanced up in the straight, that was when you saw that turn-of-foot.

“He’s certainly got great staying ability and we definitely saw it then.”

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