Melbourne Cup: Out of Order as Almandin storms to deserved favouritism

Melbourne Cup: Out of Order as Almandin storms to deserved favouritism

While Almandin and Winx were just two of the stars over a bumper weekend, the 2016 Melbourne Cup winner showed he’s the easily the favourite for the 2017 Melbourne Cup, despite rising in the handicap weights.

Picking a Melbourne Cup winner in September is about as slippery as a dew-covered Flemington track in early spring.

But even knowing how far out we are, three big things fell into place this week for Almandin to be the first back-to-back winner since Makybe Diva.

The first was his quite ridiculous win in the JRA Trophy (2500m). It’s acknowledged that he was given a virtual pacemaker and the class of the field was far below him – a look at the sectionals show some very dour performances. But it was a handicap, and he did carry 61kgs, giving most of the field 7kgs.

Almandin, with Damien Oliver on board, officially won the race by 2.8 lengths, but he was eased down miles before the line. He could’ve won by ten ridden out.

It was arrogant, and it was special, and a little frightening for the other 125 horses still in contention for the Melbourne Cup (well, their connections anyway). Andre Kassal, Racing Victoria Stewards form analyst tweeted the following (note G&L means Group and Listed races):

That’s quite something.

The second piece of news that will have helped Almandin, and every other runner, was the announcement that Order Of St George won’t contest the Melbourne Cup. Trainer Aidan O’Brien will instead focus him on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

It’s big news, and it’s disappointing. The race is certainly poorer without him – he has been one of the classiest stayers in Europe for some time. Seeing him race in the flesh and in the Cup would’ve been quite exciting both for purists, and the punters who just wanted to see something exciting.

The third is that Damien Oliver has committed to the horse after his ride. That’s a strong early agreement between the champion jockey and Team Williams, further cementing the impressive performance. Oliver, post-race, remarked:

“That was extraordinary – it’s a long time since I’ve ridden a stayer with my feet on the dashboard so far from home. He’s certainly come back better than ever. He’s carried a lot of weight today (61kg).”

It ain’t over just yet

It’s quite tempting to suggest grabbing the rapidly shortening odds of Almandin – he’s now deep into single figure for a race that’s not for seven weeks. One big query will be the track – if rain affects the track on the day, it will make a big difference to a number of the runners, including old favourite Who Shot Thebarman who would just love a bog if he could get one.

But there’s still much to play out. Humidor put in a great show in the Makybe Diva (1600m) to show he’ll be one to beat in the Caulfield Cup, but it’s not entirely clear if he’ll get 3200m. Ventura Storm wasn’t given every chance to run out that race either and we don’t know what he’ll be able to do at 2000m and beyond. Bonneval was great last week.

The Japanese horses are coming and both the form and chatting with some knowledgeable Japanese sources, Admire Deus is a better horse than Admire Rakti which says something. The problem is he’s fragile – a seven-year-old with just 22 starts. New trainer Darren Weir will be aware of his leg issues, but may have preferred more time with the horse to know exactly how to get work into him and keep him safe.

Albert, the other likely Japanese runner, is a real marathon specialist with a sprint that takes about half a race to wind up, but that might work on the 450m straight of Flemington. Still, Australian racing often demands turn of foot.

Albert has wins well beyond 3200m, at 3400m and 3600m twice. His trainer, Noriyuki Hori, is very good trainer, who has handled the likes of Maurice, Neorealism, and Duramente to name a few. If he is preparing for the Melbourne Cup, he might be focused more on the 3200m distance.

Other forgotten horses include the likes of Red Cardinal and Marmelo, who both raced in the Prix Kergorlay and have shown they’re quality horses. There’s also Gingernuts, who is still over in New Zealand and should run in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate this weekend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *