Talented gelding Almalad stamped himself as a genuine Cox Plate contender with an impressive victory in the 2014 Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley tonight.
Almalad won the Group 1 J.J. Atkins (1600m) in Brisbane at a two-year-old, but he failed to fire on a wet track in the Group 3 The Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on August 30 before he returned to a semblance of his best form in the Group 1 Golden Rose Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on September 13.
The Al Maher gelding was well-backed in the lead-up to the Group 2 Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m) and jockey Tommy Berry rode the three-year-old with plenty of confidence; with the gelding coming four wide around the final turn after being positioned just behind the leaders in the early stages of the race.
Trainer Gai Waterhouse has always said that Almalad would head to the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25 after running in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) on October 11 and Berry believes that the Group 1 winner is a genuine Cox Plate chance.
“It was a great win,” Berry said.
“Gai has done a great job with this horse.
“Obviously with the wet tracks in Sydney we were a bit behind the eight ball, but she got him down to Melbourne in great order and really fit.
“He did pull a little bit today, but we walked midrace and he isn’t the flashiest out of the barriers, but he is just going to keep improving with racing this horse.
“There is no rush to get him to the breeding barn because he is a gelding and I think we have a few years with him.
“The Cox Plate is looking good for him at the moment.”
Waterhouse has now won the past three editions of the Stutt Stakes, after taking out the 2012 edition of the race with Pierro and last’s event with Divine Calling, and her Melbourne foreman Roger Elliot confirmed that Almalad would likely follow the same path as Pierro and head to the Caulfield Guineas and Cox Plate.
“It was great,” James said of Almalad’s win.
“The Cox Plate is looking really good.
“That was Gai’s plan for sure and she is down on Sunday, so I am sure that she will be working out what way she goes.
“He is an exciting horse.”
Almalad is currently available at 2014 Cox Plate odds of $17 with Ladbrokes Australia.