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Melbourne Cup rematch between Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer

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LLOYD Williams’ quest for an unprecedented seventh Melbourne Cup win as an owner is unlikely to include last year’s winner Rekindling or runner-up Johannes Vermeer.

Williams believes the pair, who streeted the field in last year’s race, will receive too much weight from handicappers to contest this year’s Cup and could have different targets in 2018.

Rekindling and Johannes Vermeer head the top of betting in this year’s Melbourne Cup pre-nomination market — at $18 with TAB — along with Victoria Derby winner Ace High and exciting Darren Weir-trained import Kings Will Dream.

But while Williams is already overseeing an army of possible contenders for the next renewal of the Cup, he doubts either of his quinella horses from last year will be there on the first Tuesday in November.

Instead, the Macedon Lodge team will likely set Rekindling for the $2 million Emirates Stakes (formerly the Mackinnon Stakes) on the final day of the Flemington carnival, while Johannes Vermeer could seek redemption in the $5m Caulfield Cup following his slashing third in the race last year.

“Rekindling will get too much weight in the Melbourne Cup,” Williams told the Herald Sun. “You would look at the set-weight races for him.

“We might try and head for the Mackinnon (now the Emirates over 2000m). We want to get him back to a big track like Flemington and I just think that is a great race, which is now worth a lot of money. That should be his target race.”

Neither Rekindling or Johannes Vermeer have raced since their stirring battle up the Flemington straight last November.

Williams is confident Johannes Vermeer can be competitive in a second Caulfield Cup, even with the expected weight rise off the back of his luckless Melbourne spring last year.

“Maybe he could head back to the Caulfield Cup again,” he said. “Horses are capable of winning the Caulfield Cup up the top of the weights; (but) they don’t win the Melbourne Cup up the top of the weights.

“The two miles (of the Melbourne Cup) finds them out when they have a big weight.”

Rekindling carried 51.5kg in last year’s Melbourne Cup, but can expect a hefty weight rise this year, while Johannes Vermeer carried 54.5kg in both Cups in 2017.

The Cox Plate remains the last jewel in Australian racing’s crown that Williams is yet to win, but he ruled out a start for Rekindling in the weight-for-age championship, saying the tight Moonee Valley circuit would not suit the horse.

“I don’t think we would want to take on Winx.”

Williams has only recently returned from Ireland, where he stayed with Aidan O’Brien, the man who deprived him of a Cox Plate four years ago.

“My best hope to win a Cox Plate was when Aidan got up and beat me a short-half head with Adelaide when I had Fawkner,” Williams said.

He admitted to being cautiously optimistic about his likely Cups contenders for this year, but he didn’t want to put the jinx on any of them.

“We live in hope,” he said. “We have a few coming along nicely. But it has only just turned June. We won’t know if they can put their hands up until we get to September.”
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