By Ray Hickson
Godolphin trainer James Cummings has left no stone unturned to have classy mares Savatiano and Flit ready to make a statement first-up in Saturday’s Group 2 $200,000 Iron Jack Expressway Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill.
The question now is how do you split them?
Cummings is adamant both are capable, and somewhat bullish he has the horses to beat, but has the scales swinging slightly in the inaugural The Hunter winner Savatiano’s favour despite Flit having a Group 1 win to her name.
“With the superior rating Savatiano is slightly better in at weight-for-age,’’ Cummings said.
“But both mares are going very well and it will take a good horse to beat them.”
Savatiano, who has won five of her eight first-up attempts including her past two, holds a narrow margin with TAB has the $3.60 favourite ahead of boom colt Ole Kirk ($3.70) while Flit was an $8 chance on Thursday.
Both mares have trialled once, on January 21 – Savatiano ran fourth to Mizzy in 53.36 and Flit ran fourth behind Splintex in 52.97 – and Cummings said they’ve done more than enough in his eyes.
“I think they are both going to run extremely well, we have them forward in condition and expecting a soft track,’’ he said.
“It’ll be a strongly fought contest with the added extra interest of the dual Group 1 winning colt.”
With the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper fast approaching, Cummings is giving youngsters Vianello and Zethus the chance to establish their case to head towards the Group 1 two-year-old grand final.
Vianello debuted with an impressive win at Newcastle back on December 1 then on Boxing Day ran a closing third behind Rocket Tiger at Randwick.
Cummings said the Group 3 $160,000 Widden Stakes (1100m) is a good test for Vianello and is quietly confident she will prove up to the mark.
“She’s found herself what seems to be something of a winnable Widden Stakes this year,’’ he said.
“There’s good form from the Gimcrack but she is the only winner in the field and if she is able to switch off well she will run a very good race.
“I think if she can win this race she’s well on her way. Time will tell but the Slipper is quite a few steps away from this weekend.”
Zethus ran the fastest last 600m behind a colt considered a big Slipper chance in Remarque on debut two weeks ago and Cummings said he’s come on from that performance.
He ran 34.49 (Punter’s Intelligence) from near last into second and will likely concede a start again from the outside gate in the Group 3 $160,000 Canonbury Stakes (1100m).
“He’s improved a little bit, the race is harder again on what he met on debut,’’ Cummings said.
Savatiano runs fourth in a trial at Randwick on January 21
“He has a good finish on him and is a strong enough individual to be competitive against those horses. What improvement he has will be a good measuring stick for us.”
Vianello was a $4.40 chance with TAB on Thursday and $101 in the Slipper while Zethus was $8 and a $51 shot in the Slipper.
Meanwhile, Cummings said he was rapt with the return trial by TAB Everest runner-up Bivouac earlier this week ahead of his planned return in Melbourne next month.
“I thought he trialled beautifully and confirmed how well he’s been training in the lead up,’’ he said.
Golden Eagle winner Colette also gained the Cummings tick of approval and she’ll likely resume in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) on February 13.