By Ray Hickson
It’s the Australian swansong for Godolphin’s top sprinter Bivouac at Royal Randwick on Saturday and trainer James Cummings says the four-year-old is ready to produce a supreme performance.
A lot of the attention surrounding the Group 1 $2.5m Heineken TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) has been on the rematch between reigning TJ Smith champ Nature Strip and his Challenge Stakes conqueror Eduardo.
But Cummings warned Bivouac, the TAB Everest runner-up, will be a force to be reckoned with.
“Three of his memorable, scintillating performances have come third-up from a spell and his Easter weekend trackwork suggests a jaw-dropping effort is on the cards,’’ Cummings said.
“We simply couldn’t have him any better.”
The latest of those performances Cummings refers to was his VRC Sprint Classic win last spring on the back of his Everest run.
Bivouac has raced slightly below expectation in his two runs back from a spell – he’s been a beaten favourite in both the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington in February and the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill a month ago.
The entire travelled well into the turn in the Canterbury Stakes but didn’t let down as we’ve come to expect, battling into fourth beaten 1.8 lengths by stablemate Savatiano and with TJ rival and subsequent Group 1 winner Masked Crusader coming from behind him into third.
He’s since barrier trialled and Cummings suggests there should be no excuses on Saturday.
“Circumstances haven’t been ideal in his two runs this campaign, but the TJ Smith has been his bulls-eye,’’ he said.
“Physically he seems perfect. His attitude and demeanour show he is in a terrific frame of mind.
“Victory here in this autumn grand final would book this Australian equine jet a ticket to take on the world at Royal Ascot.”
Despite his CV, Bivouac is vying for second favouritism with TAB in the TJ at $4.80 on Wednesday. But Godolphin appears to have one hand on the Group 1 $1m Inglis Sires’ (1400m) with Golden Slipper runner-up Anamoe a ruling favourite.
The colt was outstanding as he charged into second behind Stay Inside, clocking easily the fastest last 600m of the race (34.33, Punter’s Intelligence).
“Brilliance, speed and determination were stamped all over his Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper performances,” Cummings said.
“While the wide barrier condemned him to an impossible position at Rosehill, his run was that of a colt crying out for further. He produced one of the runs of the day.
“He is a very athletic colt and we have always felt he would get stronger with racing. The 1400m of the AJC Sires’ Produce appears tailor-made.”
Jockey James McDonald needs just one more win to claim his 50th Group 1 success and it could be Anamoe, a colt he’s excited to be partnering at Randwick in the first major of The Star Championships, who provides the milestone.
Anamoe runs second in the Golden Slipper on March 27
“He had to go back from an awful gate and he was one of the only ones to make significant ground in that race,’’ McDonald said.
“If he drew a gate in the Slipper you could argue he would have won it. He was definitely an eye catcher, he has form around all the best horses.”
James Cummings’ comments on his Star Doncaster Mile runners:
Avilius ($14): “He takes on this time-honoured mile after two outstanding efforts in the Chipping Norton and George Ryder, affirmed Doncaster form races. An expected soft track will not be his to enjoy exclusively but he does savour a bit of mush. He is such a noble, honest horse and gives his best every time. Victory would not go undeserved.”
Best Of Days ($34): “This year this fellow has given his best every day. He is resilient, brave, competitive and honest as the days are long. He has won or placed at four of his last five starts including a nose defeat in the G1 Australian Cup (WFA). He invariably performs well off a freshen-up, he likes Randwick and the predicted soft conditions are not detrimental to his chances.”
Cascadian ($16): “He comes into the race on cue and the opposition might be queuing up behind him. He drops 6kgs from the G1 George Ryder when he cut loose, late and wide, to beat all but the placegetters. His trackwork since has been impressive and, with average luck in running, he will be charging at the line like a runaway renegade.”