Bookmakers around the country are tipping Saturday’s Group 2 $300,000 Quayclean Zipping Classic (2400m) at Ladbrokes Park to be a showdown between Melbourne Cup graduates Almandin and Big Duke.


Almandin looks better suited to the weight-for-age conditions of the 2017 Zipping Classic at Ladbrokes Park this Saturday. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos.

Just eight stayers make up the field for the race formerly known as the Sandown Classic this season, and early markets at on the mile and a half classic are led by the Lloyd Williams-raced Almandin.

Williams celebrated his sixth ‘Loving Trophy’ in the Group 1 $6.25 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) on November 7 with the win by Irish raider Rekindling.

It came just a year after the goliath owner won Melbourne Cup number five with Almandin in 2016, the German-bred import running 12th as the beaten co-favourite in the ‘Race That Stops A Nation’ this spring after a luckless wide three wide without cover for much of the trip.

Monsun eight-year-old Almandin gets the chance to atone in an easier assignment this weekend, reuniting with Damien Oliver who was suspended on Melbourne Cup Day when Italian Frankie Dettori took over riding duties.

Williams also boasts six previous Sandown Classic wins, including the four on the trot with the race’s now namesake Zipping (2007-10).

Almandin, carrying the 59kg top weight from barrier one on the weekend, is out to turn the tables on the Darren Weir-trained Big Duke who finished well ahead of the veteran stayer in the Melbourne Cup results earlier this month.

Honest Raven’s Pass six-year-old Big Duke rounded out the Melbourne Cup first four in the two mile classic crossing five and a half-lengths off the winner but six lengths ahead of Almandin.

That was the gelding’s second fourth place finish in as many starts following his loss as the beaten favourite in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) on Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day.

Big Duke won Sydney’s $500,000 St. Leger (2600m) before that on the back of a Group 1 $750,000 The Metropolitan (2400m) second to Foundry at Royal Randwick in late September.

He meets Almandin at level weights in the Zipping Classic this weekend however so will need to be improving on his gallant Melbourne Cup effort when carrying three kilograms less than the defending champion.

The Melbourne Cup form has stacked-up in the Zipping Classic plenty of times in recent history with nine of the past 10 winners coming off the famous Flemington Race 7.

Tanby (2012) who ran third in the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) is the sole Zipping Classic winner in the past decade not to have a lead-up run in the Melbourne Cup.

Almandin meanwhile is one of three Williams-owned stayers in the mix this year prepared by Macedon Lodge trainer Robert Hickmott along with The Taj Mahal and likely front runner Assign.

Four-year-old Galileo entire The Taj Mahal is the other best fancied in the Zipping Classic betting markets following the import’s good fourth when under two lengths off the winner Tosen Stardom at Flemington in last Saturday’s Group 1 $2 million Emirates Stakes (2000m).

Ben Melham retains the ride, while Kerrin McEvoy is aboard Assign.

Final Field for the 2017 Zipping Classic (2400m)

Ladbrokes Park Race 7 – 4:00pm (AEDT) – November 18, 2017

# Form (Last 10) Horse Trainer Jockey Barrier Weight Hcp. Rating
1 65111×2140 ALMANDIN (GER) Robert Hickmott Damien Oliver 1 59kg 111
2 13×5502144 BIG DUKE (IRE) Darren Weir Damian Lane 3 59kg 107
3 210x71x045 ASSIGN (IRE) Robert Hickmott Kerrin McEvoy 2 59kg 103
4 73×0000295 BERISHA Robert Smerdon Mark Zahra 7 59kg 95
5 6x68830x49 DANDY GENT Terry & Karina O’Sullivan Dean Yendall 4 59kg 82
6 30×2283300 SO SI BON Robbie Laing Noel Callow 6 58kg 95
7 3x3116x598 CONSOMMATEUR (NZ) Michael Kent Michael Dee (late alt) 8 57kg 92
8 2244692504 THE TAJ MAHAL (IRE) Robert Hickmott Ben Melham 5 56.5kg 103