“He is just a very happy horse, very relaxed,” O’Brien said.
“He has a great nature.”
That nature however changes on the racecourse when the horse becomes a competitive animal that refuses to be beaten, even when every human watching on has given up hope he can win.
As he did on Oaks Day over 1800 metres a year earlier, as he did on Melbourne Cup day at the end of a 3200-metre race, and as he had initially done in recording his first win, at Warrnambool as a three-year-old when he was headed at the 200-metre mark before fighting back to win a 2400-metre race.
“It was a long, long way down the straight and I actually thought inside the 100 [metre mark] he was going to run a nice third or fourth but he is an incredible warrior this horse,” O’Brien said.
“He has been headed a couple of times before and he always digs in and he always gets past, which is very rare.
“Once horses get passed it is very rare for them to come back. That is not the first time he has done it.”
On Tuesday his jockey Craig Williams felt his mount surge when other horses crowded him near the line, Vow And Declare’s competitive nature kicking in to lift him back into the lead.
“Craig said the best thing that happened yesterday was those horses rolling in on him late and it got crowded and pretty willing and as that pressure came he really surged again,” O’Brien said.
“He is just a horse that is a competitor.”
With the white spot just below his fringe poking forward he ran the race without bandages but with a motor that genome testing by Plusvital [an equine science company] showed would still be running through the gears at 2500 metres and beyond.
O’Brien trained him with that in mind too, keeping him active in July, August and September down at Barwon Heads after putting miles in his legs in Queensland during the winter.
It replicated the European stayers programs and meant he didn’t need too many lead up runs before the Melbourne Cup, with runs in the 2000-metre Turnbull Stakes and the 2400-metre Caulfield Cup topping Vow And Declare off nicely.
He headed into the mounting yard on Tuesday at his peak racing weight of 52 kilograms, ribs slightly showing as he readied to hit a peak speed of 64.6 kilometres an hour at the top of the straight.
Those same ribs were on display as he tentatively found his feet as a yearling on grass at Kitchwin Hills, Scone, part of Coolmoore’s shuttle stallion Declaration Of War’s first crop of foals when he stood in Australia in 2014.
That stallion now stands in Japan with no plans at this stage to bring him back while Vow And Declare’s mum, Geblitzt remains relatively nearby at Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley.
And in Australia remains Vow And Declare, the first Australian-bred horse this decade to win the race, a local that took on the world at home and beat them.
“He’s a smart horse, such a professional,” Gleeson said.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.