By Ray Hickson
If there’s another Group 1 win in Godolphin warhorse – or aristocrat as trainer James Cummings has anointed him – then you’d imagine it’ll happen at Rosehill on a wet track in March.
The seven-year-old hasn’t tasted success since his George Main victory in September 2019 and will be out to add Saturday’s Group 1 $1m The Agency George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill to his 2019 wins in the Ranvet and Tancred Stakes - both run on wet tracks in March.
It’s fair to say Avilius was below his best in the spring, with just the one second placing from six starts, but his first-up third behind Verry Elleegant and Colette in the Chipping Norton Stakes a month ago told Cummings there’s more to give.
“We weren’t surprised he ran well first-up in the Chipping Norton,’’ he said.
“He was forward enough to run a race and with the track softening up a little it gave him the opportunity to hit the line powerfully.
“He’s in a good place, looks terrific and I think he has come on a little more in his training.”
There’s no doubt Avilius produces his best when the tracks are wet and while Rosehill is drying out after an extraordinary amount of rain he’ll be in his element in the Ryder.
Nash Rawiller, who won the Ryder last year on Dreamforce and in 2013 on Pierro, rides Avilius for the second time after he clocked the fastest last 600m (34.30) and last 200m (11.83, Punter's Intelligence) of the Chipping Norton.
Cummings said the gelding, $4 favourite with TAB on Wednesday, is in a good place and while it’s not now or never he senses Saturday is a prime opportunity.
“He’s a unique horse and the team know him, and how to handle him,’’ Cummings said.
“He’s a three-time Group 1 winner, an equine patrician, and the likelihood of a heavy track on Saturday will give him the chance to show his best.”
Cascadian plays the support act for Godolphin in the Ryder in a likely stepping stone to next month’s $3m The Star Doncaster (1600m) where he has 52.5kg.
The flashy chestnut, Group 1 placed in the Cantala Stakes in the spring, resumed with a third in the Group 3 Newcastle Newmarket (1400m) three weeks ago and is a $26 chance on Saturday.
“We thought he ran well with the top weight first-up at Newcastle, making good ground on the inferior inside going,” Cummings said.
“He is a winner at this course and distance, he can get through a wet track and he’s going to be improved by his run in the Newcastle Newmarket.
“He appears to be slightly leaner this preparation and it’s important that his performance be notable if he is going to be a Doncaster chance.”
Meanwhile, Tailleur faces her biggest test in the Group 1 $700,000 Bisley Workwear Galaxy (1100m) and Cummings said she will have her chance with 51kg.
Avilius runs third at Randwick on February 27
As he did a week earlier, Cummings also accepted in the Group 3 Birthday Card (1200m) on the Slipper program but is adamant the mare will eventually be a Group 1 performer if she doesn’t prove it on Saturday so is happy to take on the Galaxy.
“In 12 months’ time she might not be so far down in the weights in a Group 1 handicap,’’ he said.
“When we get an opportunity with a horse like her and a jockey (Rachel King) who’s ready to ride her comfortably at the weight, it appears to be a straightforward decision to run in The Galaxy.”
Tailleur, $5 with TAB on Wednesday, comes into the Galaxy off a hard fought win in the Group 3 Triscay Stakes (1200m) six weeks ago where she saluted narrowly at $1.35, her fourth win from five starts on wet tracks.
“They called the meeting off after heavy rain when she won by six lengths at Moonee Valley (in August),” Cummings said.
“The wet is certainly of no concern to her.”