By Ray Hickson
Trainer James Cummings doesn’t fear any of the six rivals Avilius meets as he attempts back-to-back wins in Saturday’s Group 1 $500,000 Fujitsu George Main Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
And with good reason – he’s beaten those the market considers his stumbling blocks before.
Avilius showed with his first-up fourth behind Mister Sea Wolf in the Chelmsford Stakes over the Randwick mile two weeks ago that there’s plenty of fight left in the seven-year-old as the anniversary of his last win nears.
“His last Group 1 win was in this race a year ago – and he beat the two main rivals he meets on Saturday,” Cummings said.
“He’s become the battle-hardened warrior of the stable.
“I was delighted with his first-up run, it confirmed the confidence that had built up around a horse who has become our weight-for-age mainstay.
“When Avilius is winning, the stable is running well.”
In that first-up run Avilius came from last and clocked a race best last 600m of 33.47 (Punter's Intelligence), almost two lengths faster than anything else, and the fastest last 200m of 11.45.
Avilius runs fourth in the Chelmsford Stakes on September 5
The gelding started a warm favourite and held a 2-1/4 length margin over Dreamforce in last year’s renewal, run on a soft 6, with Verry Ellegant running fourth at $7.
This time around the Winx Stakes winning mare is TAB favourite at $2.30 ahead of Avilius ($4.80) and Dreamforce ($5.50).
Of course Winx won three straight George Mains from 2016-2018, before her the last dual winner of the race was the great Kingston Town in 1981-82.
What Avilius produces on Saturday will likely shape Cummings’ thoughts about where the spring will take him, he has 58kg in next month’s Group 1 TAB Epsom.
“The options that lie ahead of him reflect the versatility of a horse who has won Group 1 races from a mile to a mile-and-a-half,’’ he said.
Cummings has forecast a more patient approach for ATC Oaks winner Colette in the George Main than what was adopted in her first-up unplaced effort in the Tramway Stakes.
From barrier one Colette settled handy but managed to beat only one horse home behind Dreamforce, though Cummings said to be beaten two lengths meant it wasn’t a bad effort.
“Her first-up run was encouraging, although you can expect to see different tactics employed on Saturday,” he said.
“Even though she finished out of the placings last time, she moved into the race in a way that told us she was going in the right direction.
“With her lack of experience, she’s entitled to find it difficult against older, weight-for-age milers here, but we’re looking forward to seeing how she handles herself in a small but quality field.”
Colette is the outsider of the George Main at $31 with TAB, the last four-year-old mare to win the race was More Joyous back in 2010.