Britain’s wait for a winner in Australia’s biggest race continued this week, as Almandin won the Melbourne Cup for trainer Robert Hickmott and jockey Kerrin McEvoy. The seven-year-old gelding was sent after the leaders just after the turn into the straight at Flemington, and emerged victorious over Irish challenger Heartbreak City by a head, with Hartnell, the 9/2 favourite, back in third. 100,000 people turned out to watch the race, which carried a prize pot of £2.25 million, and is the culmination of the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
All in all it was a disappointing year for the European challenge in the world’s richest two mile flat handicap, a race which attracted a typically international field, including horses from New Zealand, America and Japan. Much of the pre-race hype surrounded Michael Bell’s Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange, with former British Champion Jockey Jamie Spencer in the saddle. However, carrying top weight in this handicap race (in which the horses carry different weights depending on their ability) he could only manage tenth, with Charlie Appleby’s Oceanographer, Aidan O’Brien’s Bondi Beach and Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave under Frankie Dettori all further down the field.
The leaders were no doubt suited by the quick pace from the off, which was set by Japanese raider Curren Mirotic, with Big Orange and Qewy also racing prominently in the early stages of the race. At two miles long, the cup is one of the longest top-class flat races in the world, and it clearly paid to be further back in the field through the first few furlongs as the first four home all raced midfield in the early stages. It wasn’t long before the honest pace soon showed though as the field strung out heading into the back straight, and turning for home both McEvoy and Joao Moreira on Heartbreak City were perfectly positioned to sneak through together and do battle inside the final couple of hundred metres, with Almandin just about getting up on the line to land the spoils.
McEvoy described it as a ‘dream come true’ in the moments following the race, and it has been a case of lightning striking twice for the 36-year-old in ‘the race that stops a nation’, having previously won it on Brew in 2000. The world class Moreira will also be pleased with the fantastic ride he gave Heartbreak City, who recently won the Ebor Handicap a little closer to home at York, and in fact the owners of that horse said they were so delighted with finishing second that they ‘would have been happy with last’. That is the magic of big occasions in racing like this; never mind how we all like to deride the phrase, here it truly is the taking part that counts.
Featured Image: Getty