Big Orange trainer Bell wary of Almandin in Melbourne Cup


Big Orange trainer Michael Bell has singled out Almandin as the home hope to beat in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

Winner of the Prince of Wales Stakes at Newmarket and the Goodwood Cup, Duke of Marmalade offspring Big Orange was relatively juvenile when he came fifth in the prestigious centrepiece of Melbourne's spring racing carnival last year.

Among the serious contenders 12 months later, he would be the first British-trained winner in 156 years of the race.

And while the John O'Shea-trained Hartnell and Ciaron Maher's Jameka are the first and second favourite respectively at Flemington, it is Robert Hickmott's Almandin that has Bell worried. 

"I just wonder about Hartnell and Jameka," he told The Courier-Mail.

"I don't think it [the Melbourne Cup] has been their main target, by looking at the way they have been campaigning.

"Almandin for me is the one we have got to beat. This has been his main target all along."

Big Orange struggled to recover from the demands of the lengthy journey from the United Kindom to Australia ahead of the 2015 Melbourne Cup, but has matured significantly since then.

"Anyone who has got kids would know, gangly teenagers take time to develop," Bell said. "He has now turned into a young man and he is ready to do battle.

"Last year we were slightly wary about how well he would get the trip [done] but there are no such concerns this year."

According to Bell, Big Orange and jockey Jamie Spencer, starting from the relatively favourable barrier seven, will leave nothing to chance in their quest for glory.

"We certainly won't be going as slow this year - we won't be dawdling down the back straight again," he said.

"Big Orange is a thorough stayer who likes to get on with things."

Prince of Penzance, a 100-1 outsider, triumphed last year, as Michelle Payne became the first women to ride a Melbourne Cup winner.

Perhaps set to follow in Payne's footsteps a year later is Katelyn Mallyon, who will ride Assign. 

After Hartnell and Jameka, Bondi Beach and Oceanographer are expected to be among the other major contenders in 'the race that stops a nation'.