Almandin to Carry Top Weight at MSC Signs Handicap at Moonee Valley

It is highly doubtful that Almandin will sneak into the 2017 edition of the Melbourne Cup with 52 kg, as he did last year. His win in Australia’s most important, but no longer richest turf race, prompted the gang in NSW to bump him up to 58 kg for the Sydney Cup, so Almandin’s stealth is a thing of the past.

The eight-year-old bay gelding will take to the turf in Saturday’s meeting at Moonee Valley in the fifth race, the MSC Signs Handicap, where he will jump from the fifth barrier with Ben Melham and top weight of 61 kgs. and a Ladbrokes quote of $6.50. Other horses in the race will jump with as little as 54 kgs, and the favourite, $3.70 priced Pacodali, will launch with 54.5 kg.

Almandin and stablemate Hans Holbein at $5.50 are both prepared by Robert Hickmott and both are good enough to win, provided that they are ready first up.

Brad Rawiller will be aboard $7.00 Killarney Kid with second top-weight of 58.5 kg and the Darren Weir runner has seen his price drop from earlier, when it was given as $7.50.

The 2040 m MSC Signs Handicap is not the sort of race you would expect to see a Melbourne Cup winner running, but Almandin has been lightly raced over his career. This will be his 13th start, so Hickmott’s thinking may be that he does not want to throw Almandin in to a Group level race too soon, as the son of Monsun out of Anatola has not raced since last November’s Cup win.

Then again, there are no staying races of Group quality in August and for that matter; the first opportunity would be the 2300 m Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup in mid-September.

Saturdays’ test for Almandin is a small field, but there are some smart stayers resuming ahead of the big spring races. Second Bullet and Killarney Kid are two to watch closely, especially in terms of betting, as the jump gets closer.

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