English trainer Michael Bell can see a major difference in Big Orange ahead of the stayer’s second attempt at the Melbourne Cup.
Big Orange finished fifth a year ago but has returned a bigger, stronger and more mature horse this time around.
Bell, who had not seen him for two weeks, checked him over at the Werribee quarantine centre on Thursday and was more than happy with the horse’s condition.
Last year Big Orange lost 30kg on the trip to Melbourne while this time around he shed only 13kg.
“He’s a more experienced horse this year,” Bell said.
“Last year was the first time he had really ever left Newmarket and it was a big culture shock coming to the other side of the world.”
He said Big Orange would not be asked to do too much ahead of Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup.
“He’s a clean winded horse that doesn’t need a lot of work,” Bell said.
“He’ll have a blow tomorrow but I think he’s pretty much spot-on.
“It’s a bit colder than normal I’m told at this time of year. Given that, I’m really pleased with how he’s taken everything.”
Bell is confident Big Orange has the other international stayers covered on their form in the UK, but added no-one brings a forlorn hope to the other side of the world.
Of the local brigade he’s taken with the Lloyd Williams-owned Robert Hickmott-trained former European Almandin.
“He looks as though he’s been laid out for the race,” Bell said.
“Hartnell looks a bit of an afterthought to me. He’s had a tough time in the last month so if I was to pick a local horse it would be Almandin.”
Jamie Spencer will again partner Big Orange in the Melbourne Cup.
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor was also at Werribee on Thursday.
He is trying to win his first Cup at his 15th attempt following three second placings and has Beautiful Romance and Secret Number engaged.
“I’m so happy with them, they have travelled really well from England and they look in good form and good condition,” bin Suroor said.
“They did their main work in England before they left from there.”
The trainer said he hoped to finalise jockeys on Friday.