By Ray Hickson
Trainer James Cummings has seen nothing to suggest Colette can’t stave off the Chris Waller army for a second time in as many starts in Saturday’s Group 1 $600,000 TAB Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
Waller has dominated the weight-for-age contest in the past decade winning eight of the past 10, including Winx’s historic fourpeat, and he has four of the nine runners.
But Kolding (second), Verry Elleegant (third), Funstar (fourth) and Toffee Tongue (sixth) still have to pull back Colette’s two length winning margin from the Apollo Stakes (1400m) two weeks ago.
While it’s fair to say Colette had conditions to suit her, and she will again in the Chipping Norton, it’s hard to knock what she achieved as she clocked the meeting’s fastest last 600m (33.64, Punter's Intelligence) and race best final 400m and 200m.
“The track and weather forecasts suggest she will have similar conditions to those she enjoyed in her impressive first-up victory,” Cummings said.
“She meets similar opposition on Saturday, she is fit and healthy, and steps up to the mile.
“We are hopeful of a repeat performance.”
Collette, $3.30 second favourite behind Verry Elleegant with TAB on Thursday, boasts an unbeaten record after five starts in soft and heavy ground including last year’s Group 1 Australian Oaks and the $7.5m Golden Eagle in the spring.
Fellow Godolphin rep Avilius is also well known for his wet track prowess so if Randwick proves to be on the testing side he’ll come into his own first-up after a much improved second trial a couple of weeks ago.
Avilius ($15) was beaten two lengths on a good track in last year’s Chipping Norton and he’s chasing his first win since the Group 1 George Main Stakes of 2019 – but Cummings hasn’t given up on him yet.
“We are looking forward to his return to racing,’’ he said.
“His latest barrier trial suggested he still has plenty to offer and he has generally run well first-up.”
Rachel King again rides Colette while Nash Rawiller partners Avilius.
Cummings has dual representation in the Group 3 $161,000 Quayclean Liverpool City Cup (1300m) and it shapes as an important kick off for the promising Criaderas.
The four-year-old, a winner of four of his eight starts, rushed through the grades in the spring with a luckless eighth in the Golden Eagle and a super third in the Group 2 Villiers Stakes after giving away a big start.
“He is resuming after a couple of outstanding, but luckless efforts last preparation,” Cummings said.
Colette wins at Randwick on February 13
“There is no doubting his potential and the break and recent trial augers well for his return to the track.”
Criaderas has just 50kg in the Group 1 $3m The Star Doncaster Mile and is currently around 87th in the order of entry for the April 3 feature so a penalty or exemption is likely to be needed to make the field.
Stablemate Deprive is closing in on 500 days since his last win but he did place at weight-for-age behind Libertini and Classique Legend in the Premiere Stakes (1200m) first-up in the spring.
He’s a backmarker capable of producing some slick sectionals and Cummings believes he’s in the right shape to be competitive.
“He returns to racing after a strong third and two unplaced efforts in his previous campaign,’’ he said.
“He continues to gallop well in training and he is due to put a winning performance in the rack.”