Williams in the hunt for fifth Melbourne Cup win
FOUR-time Melbourne Cup-winning owner Lloyd Williams admits today's edition of the great race is wide open, but he has been making an argument for at least three of his four runners.
The most fancied of those four, Bondi Beach, finished 16th in last year's Cup in his only Australian run, beaten 61/2 lengths, but Williams insists the five-year-old has matured and will be far better equipped this time around.
"He was only a three-year-old (by northern hemisphere time) last year - he's a different horse now,'' Williams told racing.com.
"The way the race was run last year (slowly) this had no chance, but he is in very good order for (today).''
While Bondi Beach, $9-$10 yesterday, is trained by Irish maestro Aidan O'Brien, Almandin ($11), Gallante ($51) and Assign ($71) are prepared at Williams' Mt Macedon property.
Williams is particularly upbeat about the chances of Almandin, who will be ridden by Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy and carry only 52kg on his back.
Almandin has won his past two starts - the Group 3 Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington on October 2 and the Listed Harry White Classic (2400m) at Caulfield a week earlier - in impressive fashion.
Going back further, he also beat 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist at Group 2 level in Germany five months before the Cup.
Due to injury, Almandin did not race for another two years after that win in Germany, but Williams has him firing on all cylinders and believes the horse has beaten the handicapper.
"I'm very happy with him,'' he told News Corp.
"He had a tendon when we brought him out here so we gave him the time he needed. If the jockey gives him a proper ride, that is all we need. He is a good horse and will run a mighty race.''
While Gallante lost favour with punters after weakening in the Moonee Valley Cup to finish seventh, beaten 13 lengths, Williams is keen on the six-year-old's chances.
"I was so disappointed last week at Moonee Valley, because he was given absolutely no chance whatsoever. They were running 11.5-second splits from the 1600m to the 1200m, with that horse driving him mad on the outside,” he told racing.com.
"Fortunately he's come out of that race terribly well. He went to Bendigo with us on Saturday morning as well, and you couldn't be happier with him.
"I think he's a helluva lot better than a 50-1 chance."
Former Irish stayer Assign, who finished second to Almandin in the Harry White, goes into the race a last-start winner having taken out the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield on October 8.
Williams rated the gelding a 40-1 shot but was not writing off any of his charges.
"They've all done well. They've had faultless preparations,” he said.
- ARM SPORTS BUREAU