They say it pays to do your research.
It’s a phrase that rings true at Spring Racing Carnival time, when the right study and a little bit of luck can land you a Melbourne Cup winner.
The key is to sort the wheat from the chaff – and it’s not easy, given every trainer, owner and jockey wants to spruik their chances.
Forget them saying their horse is in ‘great order’, has ‘prepared well’ or has ‘never looked better’. They all say that.
Instead, punters need to decipher genuine confidence from fluff given to the media and, of course, do their form.
That genuine confidence was on show on Tuesday and it wasn’t hard to find.
You only needed to turn to the back page of Melbourne’s Herald Sun or read the Sydney Morning Herald, or visit a range of racing and sport websites to see it.
Famous owner Lloyd Williams was hinting to the world about his ex-German horse Almandin, claiming he had beaten the handicapper.
“In an old fashioned sense, he’s beaten the handicapper,” Williams said, in quotes taken from an interview on RSN 927.
“I think he’s probably a horse that if he was able to be handicapped again – he’d get 54.5kg to 55kg.”
Beating the handicapper is the fast track to racing success.
It means getting a horse into a race with a handicap that is lower than it probably should be.
In Almandin’s case, he had to carry 52 kilos in the Melbourne Cup. Only three horses carried less weight.
His rivals in the final stages, Heartbreak City and pre-race favourite Hartnell, carried two and four kilos more respectively.
They are fine margins, sure, but so was the size of Almandin’s victory.
Watch the final stages below:
— FlemingtonRacecourse (@FlemingtonVRC) November 1, 2016
This was not any old owner claiming to have beaten the handicapper, either – it was four-time Melbourne Cup winner Williams.
Williams entered this week having won the famous race in three different decades, with Just A Dash (1981), What A Nuisance (1985), Efficient (2007) and Green Moon (2012).
He is a man who knows what he is talking about.
As much as $17 was available for the winner on Sunday but as the big race approached, a strong trail of money came for Almandin.
He was as short as $11 on race day and drifted only slightly from there, eventually paying $11.80 for the win and $4.40 the place in Victoria and a fraction more across the country.
Form line clues
There were also plenty of clues in Almandin’s form line.
The seven-year-old is out of German stallion Monsun, who also sired Melbourne Cup winners Protectionist (2014) and Fiorente (2013).
It is hard to forget Protectionist’s classic Cup win but just months before, Almandin beat him in Germany.
Almandin’s first three Australian runs wouldn’t fill anyone with confidence but they were on the comeback trail after a serious tendon injury.
And wins at Caulfield in September and Flemington in October showed Almandin had come to grips with Australian racing.
A break of nearly a month followed, in stark contrast to horses like Oceanographer, whose run in the Cup was his third in 13 days.
“I think the days of running them close up to these target races are behind us with these European-style horses. They’re different types of horses [to Aussie ones],” Williams said in the build-up.
The lengthy rest proved to be a winning formula for Williams, who is now the most dominant owner in the famous race’s history.
John Tait and Etienne De Mestre owned four winners in the race’s early days, while Dato Tan Chin Nam also had his horses salute on four occasions.
But, supported by an eclectic bunch with Almandin, including Rip Curl co-founder Brian Singer, Quiksilver founder Alan Green and famous music promoter Michael Gudinski, Williams now has no peer.
And if you’ve done your research, you would not back against him adding to his tally.