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Thursday, 24 January, 2019

High-flying Dettori to ride leading Melbourne Cup fancy Almandin

Frankie Dettori: came close to Melbourne Cup glory two years ago
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Frankie Dettori has yet to win the Emirates Melbourne Cup, but his chances of striking Australia's greatest race off his wishlist increased on Monday when connections of Almandin revealed he would partner last year's winner next week.

The Robert Hickmott-trained gelding, 13-2 with bet365 to follow up at Flemington, had been due to be ridden by Damien Oliver, but he was handed a 20-meeting ban for improper riding in Saturday's Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. 

Oliver tried to get the decision reversed, but Racing Victoria officials dismissed his appeal on Monday, so Almandin's owner Lloyd Williams turned immediately to the high-flying Dettori, who has already landed the Arc, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Champion Stakes this autumn. 

Dettori, whose Arc triumph on Enable provided him with a record-breaking fifth in the race, has captured most of the sport's biggest prizes, but the race that stops a nation as eluded him.

The 46-year-old came close to victory in the Melbourne Cup two years ago on the Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite, who was a half-length second to Prince Of Penzance, and he was beaten the same distance on Godolphin outsider Central Park in 1999. However, last year was only 22nd of 24 on the Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave.

Speaking on Monday on his way to catch a flight to California, where Ulysses heads a growing list of choice rides in the weekend's Breeders' Cup at Del Mar, he said: "I'm excited. I've been going to the Melbourne Cup for about 25 years and I've never won it, although I've been second twice. It's one of the world's best races and my wife's mother is Australian, so it's quite a big deal in our family.

"I've known Almandin's owner Lloyd Williams for years and he's been a good supporter of mine. I rode Order Of St George for him when he was third in the Arc last year, and although this isn't the way you like to pick up a ride it's not of my doing. Let's hope this is my year."

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