By Ray Hickson
Exciting import Avilius captured everyone’s attention with a stunning Australian debut win and jockey Glyn Schofield is looking for the gelding to pass an important test at Rosehill on Saturday.
Avilius swept to TAB favouritism for the Group 1 Metropolitan ($4.60) with his win over a mile and that grip will only tighten if he takes out the Group 3 $150,000 New Caledonia Travel Connection Premier’s Cup (1900m).
Schofield said the Godolphin galloper’s first-up effort was as good as it looked and now it’s up to the horse to take the next step.
“It was there for everyone to see, it was a good performance to win at a mile first-up,’’ Schofield said.
“It’s a big jump from there to Saturday, he’s gone from carrying a big weight (59.5kg) to bottom weight (53kg) which indicates it’s a tougher test for him.
“He’s an exciting horse based on his first run, he’s got to do it at another level but let’s hope that he can.’’
The gelding had some impressive international credentials behind him, including a Group 2 second to Cracksman in France last year, but he couldn't have been more dazzling in his local debut.
Punters Intel data reveals only two horses ran a quicker last 600m at Randwick on August 4 than Avilius’ 32.66 and they were in short course races.
He produced the fastest last 200m of the day in 10.95, gave away 24m start in the middle stages and covered more ground than any other runner.
And punters didn’t miss Avilius when TAB opened their Premier's Cup market at $2.70 – he was $1.85 on Thursday.
“Everything was running times that day but he felt good underneath, he gave them all a start and was good enough to catch them,’’ Schofield said.
“He certainly deserves to be ell fancied in the race based on his performance and his form.’’
Aside from an increase in distance, there’s a chance racegoers will get to see whether the five-year-old has the tactical ability to settle closer from a favourable barrier on Saturday.
Schofield said tactics hadn’t been discussed with trainer James Cummings as yet but appreciates the chance to see whether there’s another side to Avilius.
Avilius rounds up his rivals at Randwick on August 4
“It gives a few options being drawn better,’’ he said.
"Bad gates are given that name, a bad gate, for that reason so being drawn a better gate makes things easier. But you’ve still got to navigate everything that needs to be navigated.’’
Cummings said he couldn’t be happier with the way Avilius came through his first-up win and believes the Premier’s Cup is an ideal stepping stone.
Following an impressive piece of work on Tuesday morning Cummings said he can only expect the gelding to hold his form.
“I don’t think I’ve had a horse more suited to this program, going into a 1900m race second up,’’ he said.
“His work rider is an experienced guy and he was very happy with the way he galloped.
“The best thing about it is that he’s exactly the same as when he went into his first start, not showing any glimpse of wanting to overdo it. So everything points to another really nice performance.”