He’s the man who has made winning Melbourne Cups his personal crusade for more than 30 years. And finally Lloyd Williams was there to see it happen.
Usually Williams spends the first Tuesday in November at home on his farm watching the race with the sound turned down.
This year he made a rare visit to Flemington to watch a horse he has nursed through injury for almost two years make him the most successful owner in the history of Australia’s most famous race, giving him his fifth win.
Almandin, an $11 chance, fought off Irish raider Heartbreak City ($19) to win by a long head with the favourite Hartnell ($5.50) a distant 4-1/4 lengths away.
Williams admitted the roar of the 100,000 crowd was one he had missed.
“I don’t usually listen to the football or the races but to come here today – I’ve missed it. It’s a great atmosphere,” Williams said.
The great atmosphere was helped by the international presence with only one horse in the 24-horse field, Jameka, bred and raised in Australia.
Almandin is a horse Williams bought in Germany after he had beaten Protectionist in a Group Two race.
Protectionist came to Melbourne to win the Cup in 2014, while Almandin was beginning a long rehabilitation from a tendon injury.
Williams, who now has one more win than John Tait and Etienne de Mestre and long-time Bart Cummings stalwart Dato Tan Chin Nam, had four horses in the race – Almandin, Bondi Beach (13th), Assign (19th) and Gallante (20th) – while Sheikh Mohammed’s operation had five including Hartnell.
Another Godolphin runner, Secret Number ($31) went out hard with the Gai Waterhouse-trained Excess Knowledge ($61) and Japanese visitor Curren Mirotic ($51).
In the run home they were found wanting and it was left to Heartbreak City, ridden by Hong Kong’s champion jockey Joao Moreira, and Almandin with 2000 Cup winning rider Kerrin McEvoy aboard, to fight it out.
It was a hard slog but McEvoy justified Williams’ faith in him to get the job done.
“I booked Kerrin a month ago after Almandin won the Bart Cummings and at that stage had 51 kilos before the weights went up,” Williams said.
“When we knew the horse was fit and well we wanted to lock in a jockey and I told Kerrin I would be very surprised if he didn’t run top four.
“It’s hard to get horses back when they have a tendon injury but we give them a long time and they do a lot of long, slow walking at the farm.
“That’s how we train them.”
Robert Hickmott is listed as the official trainer and Almandin’s win was his second with Green Moon in 2012 his first.
But Williams is the driving force behind Macedon Lodge.
“Robert is a very good employee,” he said.
“He has been with me for 15 years and is a first class fellow and we discuss things and what we want to do.
“He’s learnt a lot.”
McEvoy said he appreciated his second win more than his first on Brew 16 years ago.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “It’s just a dream and it’s great to be a part of it again.”
Moreira, who is known as the Magic Man, ran out of tricks inside the last 50 metres.
“Turning for home, I thought I was going to win as I went past Hartnell easily, but when I looked on my outside, Kerrin McEvoy had his horse full of himself as well and we went for a battle,” he said.
“Running second is not the best but we can’t be disappointed with the horse himself.
“I’ll be back and I’ll win this.”
Godolphin will also be back as will Williams who at 76 has an ambition to equal trainer Bart Cummings record of 12 Cups.
“At 76 is it possible for me to catch Bart?” he said.
“It’s my hope to get 12.”