Champion jockey Damien Oliver has locked in the ride on last year’s winner Almandin for the 2017 Group 1 $6.25m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 7.
Oliver reunited with the Robert Hickmott trained, Lloyd Williams owned Almandin for a barnstorming win in the Listed $120,000 Japan Racing Association Trophy (2500m) at Flemington last Saturday.
The three times Melbourne Cup winning jockey partnered Almandin to two wins from two rides during the 2016 Melbourne Spring Carnival in the Listed $120,000 italktravel Harry White Classic (2400m) at Caulfield and in the Group 3 $300,000 The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington.
But Oliver had to relinquish the ride in the Melbourne Cup after the European import was only asked to carry 52kg and Kerrin McEvoy gained the mount and went on to win his second trophy in ‘The Race That Stops A Nation’.
McEvoy had previously won the Melbourne Cup on Brew in 2000 while Oliver has three Melbourne Cup trophies on his mantelpiece courtesy of Doriemus (1995), Media Puzzle (2002) and Fiorente (2013).
Oliver is now in the box set to claim a fourth Melbourne Cup and equal the feats of legendary jockeys Bobby Lewis and Harry White.
“I’m happy to say that I’ve been booked to ride him, so that’s great,” Oliver told RSN927 on Monday.
“It’s a great opportunity. The riding ranks are really competitive in Melbourne at the moment so to land a top chance in the Melbourne Cup this early, I couldn’t be happier.”
“I think he’s come back better than ever, without a doubt,” he said.
“It was obviously a comprehensive win (in the Japan Racing Association Trophy).”
Almandin has been allocated 56.5kg for this year’s Melbourne Cup, up 4.5kg on last year’s win, but Oliver said that he has shown enough improvement to be able to handle the weight rise.
“I think he has improved on last year. To be able to carry that weight and impose himself on a field like that,” Oliver said.
“I suppose he had to, going up 4.5kg on last year’s weight (for the Cup).
“He had to have improved to be a good chance in the Cup this year.
“He’s not racing like an eight-year-old that’s for sure.”
Almandin is now a clear cut $7 favourite for the 2017 Melbourne Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au following his win in the Japan Racing Association Trophy and the confirmation of Oliver’s booking.
Early betting for the 2017 Melbourne Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au: $7 Almandin, $13 Admire Deus, $15 Albert, Humidor, $17 Bonneval, Francais Of Assisi, Red Cardinal, Toberian, $21 Gingernuts, Marmelo, Ventura Storm, $26 Aloft, Big Duke, Hartnell, St Michel, Wall Of Fire, $34 or better the rest.