By Ray Hickson
Trainer Ron Quinton admits he’s been a bit quiet in the last year or so but he has high hopes for 2021 and a Group 2 win by Royal Celebration at Randwick on Saturday would add that extra spring to his step for the new year.
It’s been a long range plan by Quinton to target Saturday’s Group 2 $250,000 The Agency Villiers Stakes (1600m) with Royal Celebration who has been something of a quiet achiever.
The five-year-old put his Villiers credentials on show with a gutsy second behind Outrageous in the Festival Stakes (1500m) two weeks ago and while Quinton would have preferred to draw just a little closer to the inside he said he’ll get his chance.
“He’s done really well, I couldn’t be happier with him,’’ Quinton said.
“His first-up run was great then at Newcastle he drew wide and was probably looking for further, his run in the Festival was terrific.
“He appears as if he’s gone on well since so I’m sure he will run a great race.”
Quinton won the Villiers three times as a jockey - in 1978 on Dear John, 1981 on Zing Along and 1983 on Northern Reward – and became the first to win the race as a jockey and a trainer when he prepared Monton to win in 2011.
After Royal Celebration carried 59kg to win over the 1600m in April the Villiers came to mind as a target race and it’s fair to say he’s been zeroing in on it to Quinton’s liking.
He’s a $9 chance with TAB and a Villiers win would earn the entire a free ticket into the $3m Doncaster Mile (1600m) in April – something Quinton could never have imagined with a horse like Royal Celebration who spent most of 2019 off the scene with injury.
It’s also interesting that he’s still an entire, a son of multiple Group 1 winner Excelebration.
“He had an injury and a fair while off and we never even thought about (gelding him), we probably should have, and the next minute he’s back in training and still an entire,’’ Quinton said.
“But he has the best attitude, the best nature, you wouldn’t know he’s an entire at all, he’s just a lovely horse.
“If he could be lucky enough to win a Group race he could be a saleable object for a stud somewhere. He’s naturally a bit short of a Group horse but he probably gets the chance.
“We just need a bit of luck to go his way. He’s a real trier, there’s no doubt about him, he puts his best foot forward.
“(The Doncaster) is a big call at this stage but you never quite know.”
Christian Reith, who won the Villiers in 2018 on Sky Boy, has the ride on Saturday.
Royal Celebration runs second at Rosehill on November 28
It’s been well over a year since the retirement of Quinton’s star mares Dixie Blossoms and Daysee Doom and this spring both had foals by Exceed And Excel, the former producing a filly and the latter a colt.
Quinton said he hopes to have the chance to train both youngsters when the time comes but he is rapt with the quality of the two-year-olds in his stable and that’s got him excited about 2021.
“I’ve had a very quiet 12 months or more, I have a lot of two-year-olds this year and we are hoping some of them can come up to the mark,’’ he said.
“There are some nicely bred ones there and we’re hopeful in 2021 we will have a better year.
“You have to be patient, there’s no good rushing because you’ll end up in trouble if you rush. Bart Cummings once said the cheapest thing in racing is patience.”