Rekindling

Rekindling greeted by his delighted connections (Image: Racing Photos)

Emirates Melbourne Cup: Lloyd and Co

Lloyd is both boss and architect, and this is his race, his victory.

But winning, even winning Emirates Melbourne Cups, can be a lonely experience if there's no-one to hug and high five; no-one to share the debrief and the decanter late into Cup night at some plush joint inside Crown Casino.

Williams only last year returned to the racetrack after many years, and many Emirates Melbourne Cup wins, as the race's most dominant force but also its most hermit-like.

He used to watch the victories of horses like Efficient and Green Moon, on a plush couch in his St Kilda Road apartment, the 'Lloyd Williams Grandstand', he used to call it.

Williams used to appear on Emirates Melbourne Cup night - neat casual, not top hat and tails, like on Tuesday - clutching the Emirates Melbourne Cup, entering a restaurant at Crown, the gambling house be built.

There would always be hangers-on but the winner, denoted in the racebook, was Lloyd.

His absence from the track, where up to 100,000 would cram our most famous race, where Williams would be the greatest 'presence' with multiple runners but not be there, seemed to add to his mystique.

He was almost a ghost.

But Williams turned up for the Emirates Melbourne Cup last year, joking he was the fill-in for son Nick who declared a day earlier that he wouldn't be able to make it because of a knee operation.

Nick Williams did in fact turn up, hobbling about on crutches, and his father dusted off the same grey morning suit he'd worn at his last appearance at Flemington many years earlier.

It proved a lucky old suit. Lloyd won his fifth Emirates Melbourne Cup with Almandin.

Lloyd was there again on Tuesday, in that same old suit, but with each Williams Cup win - he now has six - the winner's podium seems to become more crammed.

I counted 31; six were Emirates 'girls', one an Emirates honcho, there was young Irish trainer Joseph O'Brien, Nick, some well-heeled others and a group of about six who have been fairly recent, and happily invisible, members of a growing group of mates Williams has invited along for the ride.

They're all top-end-of-town types; millionaires and billionaires; some big names in business, like Phil Merhten, and others big names in town, like music leviathan Michael Gudinski and caravan mogul Gerry Ryan, already a dual Cup winner with Americain and Prince Of Penzance.

These barons of business do not encroach on Lloyd's day. They are guests, their invitation noted in the racebook as minor part-owners.

Williams owned Almandin outright when he won last year's Bart Cummings but there were more names in the book - Merhten among them - come the first Tuesday in November.

WATCH: Rekindling's win

Williams said Nick was responsible for assembling a syndicate, 'so we can go and have a bit of a party'.

Horses like Mourayan and Green Moon featured guys like Mehrten in the racebook.

On Tuesday Merhten had seven Cup runners, bit shares in each, and he basked in the fringe of the celebration as jockey Corey Brown returned to scale.

You might not know Merhten by sight. He is middle-aged and bald. He is a leviathan builder, who guessed he first got to seriously know Lloyd Williams when he built an office for him in Hawthorn many years ago.

Mehrten will be part of Cup history for as long as Williams. Williams 'owns' the Emirates Melbourne Cup and Mehrten built Flemington's towering public grandstand more than a decade ago.

That stand hovered over Tuesday's race. Like Williams, Mehrten's grandstand is a constant Emirates Melbourne Cup presence. One day, who knows, it might even be known as the Lloyd Williams Stand, an upgrade from that couch in St Kilda Road.

"I'll be old and cranky one day and it (the stand) will still be here," Mehrten said.

Williams, the former hermit, still retains a 70 per cent stake in all of his horses.

"It's a huge thrill just to be part of this crew," he said. "There's five or six of us in all the time and I'm just appreciative to be included. I can't describe it really because we really weren't sure how he would go."

'He' was Rekindling, a three-year-old by Northern Hemisphere time and described as a '14-hand runt' by a local trainer who wandered past his tie-up two hours before the race.

Rekindling proved his heart was bigger than his frame, charging past stablemate Johannes Vermeer - another of Mehrten's runners - to give Williams another loving Cup to fill and spill with Grange and pass around.

The celebrations will go late into the night. Once, Williams used to book a mere table. He might now book out the whole restaurant.