Newmarket trainer Michael Bell considers Big Orange to be in better shape this year for his second attempt at the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) when he leads the field out at Flemington on Tuesday.
Big Orange ran a mighty race to finish fifth to Prince Of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup and will carry the top weight of 57kg this year along with the Lee and Anthony Freedman trained Our Ivanhowe.
Bell arrived at the quarantine centre at the Werribee International Horse Centre at the Werribee racecourse this morning to see Big Orange go through his paces and was happy with what he saw and expects him to perform better in the Melbourne Cup this year.
“He lost thirty kilos when he came this time last year and this year he only lost thirteen,” Bell told racing.com.
“He is a more experienced horse. That was the first time he had left Newmarket really last year so it was big culture shock for him coming to the other side of the world. He is at home here.”
Bell is expecting the six year old to be at his best and explained that Big Orange has finally grown into his huge frame.
“He is a huge horse. He is seventeen hands and weighs 550 kilos and big horses take time to mature and fill that frame and in theory he should be a better horse this year and the form book suggest he is.”
Big Orange has good form again this year leading into the Melbourne Cup and made back to back wins in the Group 2 £300,000 QATAR Goodwood Cup (2 miles) at Goodwood on July 28 before he left England for the long trip to Melbourne and is listed as a $17 with Ladbrokes.com.au.
Bell considers the Lloyd Williams owned Almandin as the best Australian trained Melbourne Cup chance over the John O’Shea trained Hartnell who is the current $4.60 favourite.
“The one that caught my eye was Almandin. He looks as though he has been laid out for the race,” Bell said.
“Hartnell looks a bit of an afterthought for me. He sort of has had a tough time in the last month so if I was to pick a local horse I would say Almandin.”
The Robert Hichmott trained Almandin gained automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup with his win in the Group 3 $300,000 The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington on October 2 and is well in the betting at $13.
Hartnell has earned his Melbourne Cup favouritism with some outstanding Spring Carnival form and prior to getting beaten by eight lengths last start when second to Winx in the Group 1 $3m Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley last Saturday, had strung together a Spring hat trick of wins.
After a first up second to Winx in the Group 2 $250,000 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on August 20, Hartnell scored the first of his three wins in the Group 2 $250,000 Tattersalls Club Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on September 3 and then repeated that winning performance in the Group 2 $200,000 Ascend Sales Trophies Hill Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on September 17.
O’Shea then headed to Melbourne with Hartnell who went on his winning way with a three and a quarter lengths victory in the Group 1 $500,000 Yellowglen Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 2.
Early Melbourne Cup market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $4.60 Hartnell, $5.50 Jameka, $10 Bondi Beach, $11 Heartbreak City $13 Almandin, $16 Wicklow Brave, $17 Big Orange, Exospheric, $18 Almoonqith, $21 Oceanographer, $26 Curren Mirotic, Who Shot Thebarman, Qewy, Secret Number, $31 Grand Marshall, Grey Lion, Our Ivanhowe, Real Love, Beautiful Romance, Tom Melbourne, $51 Gallante, Assign, Excess Knowledge, $61 Tally, Howard Be Thy Name, De Little Engine, Sir John Hawkwood, $81 Vengeur Masque, $101, Pentathlon, $301 Rose Of Virginia, The Bandit.