Al­mandin re­turns big­ger and bet­ter

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - MICHAEL MANLEY

DAMIEN Oliver branded last year’s Mel­bourne Cup win­ner Al­mandin a bet­ter horse in 2017 af­ter he de­stroyed his ri­vals to win the Ja­pan Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion Hand­i­cap at Flem­ing­ton yes­ter­day.

And his part-owner Nick Wil­liams didn’t rule out Al­mandin run­ning in the Caulfield Cup be­fore he de­fends his Mel­bourne Cup ti­tle.

“I wouldn’t want to en­cour­age any punter to back him in the Caulfield Cup but I wouldn’t want to dis­suade them ei­ther,” Wil­liams said.

Dur­ing the week Rac­ing Victoria amended the rules sur­round­ing Caulfield Cup win­ners be­ing pe­nalised for the Mel­bourne Cup as any Caulfield Cup win­ner who car­ries 56kg or more can­not be pe­nalised for Flem­ing­ton.

Al­mandin has 56.5kg in both cups.

Al­though Al­mandin car­ried the huge im­post of 61kg yes­ter­day in the 2500m race, he left his ri­vals in his wake, be­ing eased down to win by two-and-three-quar­ter lengths.

Jockey Oliver couldn’t have been more im­pressed.

“Wow. That was ex­tra­or­di­nary,” he said.

“He’s come back bet­ter than ever. It’s been a long time since I’ve rid­den a stayer where I’ve had my feet on the dash­board so far from home.”

Last year Oliver rode Al­mandin to win the Harry White Clas­sic at Caulfield and then the Bart Cummings be­fore los­ing the Mel­bourne Cup-win­ning ride to Ker­rin McEvoy as he couldn’t make the weight.

“I’m now three for three on him,” Oliver said.

Wil­liams was taken by sur­prise with the ease of the win.

“The way he just cruised past them with 61 kilo­grams was a pretty good ef­fort, wasn’t it?” he said.

Wil­liams said they hadn’t de­cided Al­mandin’s spring path to the Mel­bourne Cup.

“It’s very sim­ple — the horse will tell us where he goes,” Wil­liams said.

“Whether it’s the Bart Cummings, whether it’s the Her­bert Power, whether it’s the Caulfield Cup, whether it’s the Cox Plate, whether it’s the Moonee Val­ley Cup. That de­ci­sion will be made in due course.”

Team Wil­liams supplied the tri­fecta with Crocodile Rock and Aloft.

Al­mandin ($5) beat Crocodile Rock ($3.60) by two and three quar­ter lengths, with Aloft ($10) a short neck away.

EM­PHATIC: Al­mandin cruises to vic­tory at Flem­ing­ton.

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