Champion jockey Damien Oliver is in no doubt Almandin is on target for his Melbourne Cup defence after an emphatic win in a Listed race at Flemington.
Making his first appearance at Flemington since winning the Melbourne Cup last year, Almandin settled midfield in Saturday’s Listed JRA Trophy (2500m) before Oliver took the gelding along the inside early in the straight.
In the blink of an eye Almandin had burst to the front and the import strode clear in his second start of this spring before Oliver eased him down well before the line to win by 2-3/4 lengths.
Stablemate Crocodile Rock was second with another Robert Hickmott-trained stablemate Aloft, one of six in the race from owner Lloyd Williams’ Macedon Lodge team, a short neck away third.
“Wow,” Oliver said.
“That was extraordinary.
“I think he’s come back better than ever, without a doubt.
“It was obviously a comprehensive win.”
Oliver rode Almandin to two impressive wins in the Harry White Classic and The Bart Cummings last spring but could not ride the stayer in the Melbourne Cup because he had 52kg which was below his weight range.
Kerrin McEvoy won the Cup on Almandin.
This year Almandin has 56.5kg and Oliver is hoping to keep the ride.
“I’m three for three on him, so that’s a good start,” he said.
Almandin firmed from $13 to outright Melbourne Cup favouritism at $9 over Humidor, who moved to $13 after his impressive Group One Makybe Diva Stakes win on Saturday.
Humidor is now the $5 Caulfield Cup favourite while Almandin has moved to $11.
Part-owner Nick Williams said there were plenty of options for Almandin’s lead-up to the Melbourne Cup 2017, but nothing was locked in.
Almandin is striving to become just the sixth horse to win more than one Melbourne Cup.
“He really surprised me, the way he just cruised past them,” Williams said.
“I think that’s as good as you’d see, that win. I’ve obviously only seen it the once, but with 61 kilos, in a very strongly run race, that was a very dominant win.”