Almandin agonisingly denied Heartbreak City in a thrilling finish to the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup as the front two had the race between them and fought out a stirring finish today.
A maximum field of 24 went to post for Australia’s premier race, with eight horses representing European-based trainers.
Wicklow Brave and Frankie Dettori were the last to load up, from the widest draw of all.
At the break Wicklow Brave stayed wide, while Big Orange was prominent early on. But settling down, it was Curren Mirotic and Excess Knowledge who led with Assign also well up with the pace as the field streamed past the packed stands.
Racing down the back, Excess Knowledge led Assign and Secret Number, with Curren Mirotic and Wicklow Brave placed handily and then Big Orange, Grey Lion and Qewy.
Secret Number moved to the head of affairs as the field continued down the back as Excess Knowledge and Curren Mirotic came under pressure.
Secret Number led into the straight with Excess Knowledge, with Wicklow Brave coming under pressure, while at the back, Rose OF Virginia was eased down and all but pulled up.
But the race quickly developed down the outside with Heartbreak City swooping through with Almandin and Hartnell.
But it was the former pair who showed the best turn of foot and went clear and settled down to fight out the finish.
The Tony Martin runner, under a fine ride from Joao Moreira, had his nose in front for much of the last furlong and a half, but Kerrin McEvoy, last successful in the Cup 16 years ago, had a little up his sleeve and the Lloyd Williams silks were carried to a fifth Melbourne Cup victory by a narrow margin.
Heartbreak City, winner of the Ebor Handicap at York in August, was an heroic second, with the front two well clear of Hartnell, ahead of Qewy and Who Shot Thebarman.
The Robert Hickmott trained 6 year old Almandin, was formerly trained in Germany and is a son of Monsun, again underlining the virtues of German breeding.
Back in June of 2014 he had beaten another future Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist, in a Group 2 contest at Baden Baden.
Winning rider McEvoy said: “He travelled well how lucky am I? It is just elation. He has been well prepared by Lloyd.
“It is great to be part of it again and win my second Cup.
“It is just a dream come true. I love these staying races and I love the Melbourne Cup.”
Tony Martin now wants to attempt to go one place better in 2017 with a horse who did brilliantly well to even get in contention from a wide draw in stall 23.
He said: “The emotions were very high. I gave him all the pushing and shoving I could from the stands, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
“Everything went to plan, everything was great, it’s just a pity we didn’t have somebody to tow us into the straight a little bit further.
“Other than that, everything went well – I couldn’t be happier.
“If we have to lock him up until next year, he’s coming back here next year, all being well.”
Jockey Joao Moreira chose to focus upon the many positives after Heartbreak City turned in such a gallant display.
The rider said: “He tried 120 per cent and I’m very proud of the horse.
“He was giving the best of himself for a long way. You can’t be disappointed with his run.”
Godolphin runner Secret Number, trained in Newmarket by Saeed bin Suroor, and Excess Knowledge jousted for the lead for a long way in what was a truly-run renewal of the two-mile affair.
The latter still held a slight advantage two furlongs from home, but Heartbreak City was soon on top of that rival and darted into the lead from off the pace.
A cut-and-thrust finale ensued, but Almandin found that little bit extra to provide both jockey Kerrin McEvoy and trainer Robert Hickmott with a second taste of Melbourne Cup glory.
Joint- owner Lloyd Williams is a ubiquitous presence upon the winner’s podium and was claiming an unprecedented fifth victory in the “race that stops a nation”.
McEvoy, who won the Melbourne Cup with Brew in 2000, said: “How lucky am I? The elation is unreal.
“He has been well prepared and he travelled well.
“All we needed was a good run. The more I looked at it before the race, the more confident I got.
“It’s a great buzz to get the job done. He’s a great little horse.
“He’s had his troubles along the way, but he’s been very well handled. It’s a dream come true. I love the Melbourne Cup.”
Godolphin were responsible for five runners in their relentless pursuit to win the Melbourne Cup, with the locally-trained Hartnell third – some four and a quarter lengths away from the main protagonists – and Charlie Appleby’s Qewy a staying-on fourth.
Big Orange, fifth last year, was prominent for a long way but he faded as the field charged for home and could only finish 10th for trainer Michael Bell and jockey Jamie Spencer.
Bondi Beach was never a factor, while fellow Irish challenger Wicklow Brave expended a lot of early energy by getting across from stall 24 and beat just two horses home.