CUP FAVOURITE: Damien Oliver rides Almandin to victory at Flemington last month.
CUP FAVOURITE: Damien Oliver rides Almandin to victory at Flemington last month. Vince Caligiuri

McEvoy says Almandin favourite for Melbourne Cup

KERRIN McEvoy believes Almandin is still the horse to beat in the Melbourne Cup despite a last-start defeat in The Bart Cummings.

McEvoy piloted Lloyd Williams' import to victory in last year's Cup, snatching victory over Heartbreak City in a head-bobbing finish.

But with Damien Oliver taking the ride this year on TAB $6.50 joint favourite Almandin, McEvoy will partner Red Cardinal ($15).

As impressed as McEvoy was during trackwork with the Andreas Wohler's raider, he retains healthy respect for Almandin.

"Obviously Almandin is the one, a great stayer with a dynamic tun of foot," dual Cup winner McEvoy said.

"Still very wary of him even off the back of his last run when he was fourth or fifth (in The Bart Cummings).

"Marmelo put in a good performance in the Caulfield Cup when it was a bit leaderish and he looks to have come out of the race well, looking at him this morning.

"There's plenty of water to go under the bridge, but pretty happy to be on this fellow (Red Cardinal)."

McEvoy said it would pay to forget Red Cardinal's last-start fifth behind Marmelo in the Prix Kergorlay - a lead-up race with proven formlines through previous Cup winners Dunaden, Americain and another of Wohler's raiders, Protectionist.

"I've seen his races and pretty happy to be partnering this horse," McEvoy said.

"He's a horse that's performed well at two miles (3200m) and was a good winner there when he went to the USA (in the Belmont Gold Cup).

"You can put a line through his last run, he was back and wide at Deauville and never really got a chance to get into the race when he ran behind Marmelo.

"If you take a line off that, he's got the right the formlines coming into our biggest race.

"He's a nice big horse, nice and comfortable to ride.

"He seems pretty bright and well, happy with how he felt and he's pretty fit and forward.

"He's a big horse but he's got a good action and he's shown that he can travel and still got that turn of foot.

"Andreas is obviously a master trainer and knows what's required out here and he was impressed this morning.

"There's plenty of ticks in my horse' box and that gives us good confidence."

Wohler said Red Cardinal and Protectionist were both quality gallopers, but different styles of horses.

He remains confident about his prospects of lifting a second Cup.

"We are happy so far. Everything went fine and according to plan," he said.

"It's not easy to get a better jockey than Kerrin."

Wohler said he shied away from taking Red Cardinal to Caulfield for a lead-up run - as he had with Protectionist, finishing fourth in the 2014 Herbert Power before winning the Melbourne Cup.

"We skipped that race because of the ground," he said.

"We didn't want to have any troubles on the fast ground from the Caulfield race. We are happy with the horse to bring him fresh into the Melbourne Cup.

"Firm ground varies on different tracks. Firm ground at Flemington might be different to firm ground at Caulfield that's why I wouldn't worry about Flemington.

"He's run at New York on a fast track and handled it well but we were a bit worried about the ground at Caulfield so that's why we skipped the race just to be of the safe side."

Scotland's Nakeeta will be ridden in the Cup by Glyn Schofield.

News Corp Australia


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