The Melbourne cup is the biggest race on the Australian horse racing calendar, and in 2021 there was a clear favourite.
A young horse named Incentivise had been dominating every race he ran in 2021, and a quick look at his performance up to that point explains why bookies thought he was a sure thing for the biggest race of them all:
- Toowoomba – Won by 7 lengths
- Eagle Farm – Won by 9 lengths
- Ipswich – Won by 9 lengths
- Tattersall’s Cup – Won by 12 lengths
- Makybe Diva Stakes – Won by 1/2 length
- Turnbull Stakes – Won by 1/2 length
- Caulfield Cup – Won by 3 lengths
He started the race as the $2.90 favourite but the odds had been even shorter, and many bookies, including Sportsbet, who are owned by Paddy Power, decided that enough was enough and paid out a few weeks early.
This cost them $5.6 million Australian dollars, but of course, it was money they would have to pay out anyway once the inevitable happened.
But what actually happened?
Verry Elleegant Costs SportsBet Millions
Another strong runner, Verry Elleegant, overtook Incentivise just after the Flemington Straight, and charged ahead, winning the race by 4 lengths in the end.
Incentivise is airborne… So we’ve paid out early on him to win the Melbourne Cup! ?? pic.twitter.com/TS4oEkBHkO
— Sportsbet.com.au (@sportsbetcomau) October 19, 2021
This was extra damage for Sportsbet who now also had to pay out anyone who had backed the correct winner as well. Verry Elleegant started the race at $18, but had been as long as $20, so all in all the race cost Sportsbet a massive $50 million on the two horses they paid out on.
Some punters got very lucky too, with reports of eye watering wagers on the favourite that would have gone up in smoke had it not been for the early payout. One no doubt very relieved punter bet $65,000 and another bet $20,000 at odds of $2.80, while yet another placed a bet worth $17,500 when Incentivise was priced at $2.90.
A lot of people won a lot of money that they should have lost that day. However, some took their early payout money and put it straight back on Incentivise, and Sportsbet reported one bet on $80,000 on the horse just an hour before the off. Gutting.
Incentivise had never really looked like winning the race except for during a few brief moments. He spent the beginning of the race behind the leader, overtaking for the Flemington Straight, but then being overtaken himself.
A sportsbet representative said:
“The punters came for Incentivise, he started as one of the shortest-priced favourites in Melbourne Cup history, and we were all believers, but wow! What a performance by Verry Elleegant and what a result for punters,”
The guy who had $5,000 on the winner at $16 must have been beaming as he walked away with his $80,000 winnings.
The interesting thing is, that although Verry Elleegant was in the top 10 favourites she was never expected to beat Incentivise in the Melbourne Cup. Yet a few months before, she was the favourite to win the Turnbull Stakes, which Incentivise went on to win.
So the Melbourne Cup was perhaps Verry Elleegant’s revenge.