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The Melbourne Cup is the horse race that stops a nation on the first Tuesday in November – Australians, even those who are not overly interested in the sport, down tools to watch two-dozen gallopers run two miles – and, without super mare Winx in the field, it is a wide-open betting contest.
Only five horses – Archer (1861 and 1862), Peter Pan (1932 and 1934), Rain Lover (1968 and 1969), Think Big (1974 and 1975) and Makybe Diva (2003, 2004 and 2005) have taken out multiple editions of the Melbourne Cup but Almandin has a better chance of joining that list than bookmakers think.
Almandin’s owner, Lloyd Williams, is obsessed with winning as many Melbourne Cups as possible. Such is the fanaticism of Williams for the Melbourne Cup that one can disregard the results of his horses in other races if they are targeting the world’s richest staying event. Almandin’s preparation, which has featured three races leading into his Melbourne Cup title defence, has all been about peaking fourth up yet, in spite of that, he has produced one truly outstanding effort while getting ready for early November. Almandin was nothing short of brilliant when carrying 61 kilograms to win the Japan Racing Association Trophy over 2,500 metres at Flemington on Saturday 16 September, triumphing by almost three lengths in spite of Damien Oliver going easy on him during the final furlong. It is clear from that performance that Almandin has improved since his Melbourne Cup-winning effort this time last year and, while his backers would not have enjoyed his fourth place in The Bart Cummings over the same course and distance as the Japan Racing Association Trophy, it looked like the ideal warm-up for Australia’s most famous race. With Almandin allotted 56.5 kilograms for his second Melbourne Cup appearance and priced at 13/2 7.50 +650 6.50 6.50 -0.15 with Bet365, all that he has to do is reproduce his Japan Racing Association Trophy display and it will take a very, very, very good horse to beat him home.
So which are the biggest Melbourne Cup dangers to Almandin? According to bookmakers, Marmelo is a threat and one agrees that the Hughie Morrison-trained British raider is a genuine chance. Marmelo caught one’s eye in the Caulfield Cup when he posted the fastest last 200 metres having entered the final furlong in 13th position. Marmelo finished sixth in the Caulfield Cup and one expects him to springboard off what was his first run on Australian soil. If Almandin flops, Marmelo is certainly in the mix for the prize.
It is difficult to win the Melbourne Cup first up so one is putting a pen through the international horses which are heading to Flemington from Racing Victoria’s quarantine centre without having had a competitive outing since arriving in Australia. One is not convinced that WS Cox Plate runner-up Humidor wants 3,200 metres and he could produce a flat effort after chasing home Winx last time out, while Johannes Vermeer’s best displays have been over much shorter than the two miles that he face in the Melbourne Cup so he is another one of the favourites around which to bet.
In the Melbourne Cup, one has Almandin on top ahead of Marmelo and Wall Of Fire. Wall Of Fire was very strong in the Herbert Power Stakes over 2,400 metres at Caulfield on Saturday 14 October, recording both a good overall rating and excellent late sectionals to indicate that he will relish stepping up to 3,200 metres. Wall Of Fire will carry only 53 kilograms in the Melbourne Cup, he has prevailed in a couple of races over long trips and, critically, he has stretched his legs since touching down in Australia.
Almandin to win the Melbourne Cup
Tuesday 7th November
Odds: 13/2 7.50 +650 6.50 6.50 -0.15
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