It’s not every day you see a horse beaten by more than 20 lengths and then turn up as favourite at their next start.
But James Cummings has as much faith as the bookmakers that his grand warrior Avilius can rebound from his second Melbourne Cup flop and head straight back into the winner’s stall at Sandown on Saturday.
The evidence is plain and simple the seven-year-old Godolphin galloper doesn’t stay the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup – he finished 22nd behind Cross Counter in 2018 and in the same lowly position behind Twilight Payment this year.
Admittedly in 2018, Avilius suffered severe interference and was left trailing the field.
But the elite competitor who won three Group 1 races last year is a different animal over 2400m rather than 3200m, such as when he finished sixth in this year’s Caulfield Cup without being fully tested.
Godolphin trainer Cummings also points to Avilius winning at his next run after the 2018 Melbourne Cup, even though that was in the Carlyon Cup at Caulfield three months later, as reason to be confident with his charge at Sandown on Saturday.
Bookmakers have marked Avilius as the $3.90 favourite in the Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m).
“If any horse can turn things around so quickly, this horse can,” Cummings told Racenet.
“He got beaten further in the Melbourne Cup two years ago and then returned to win the Carlyon Cup first-up.
“If he just can’t stay (3200m), how far do you want him to get beaten by?
“He is a proper weight-for-age horse and I think the Zipping Classic is the best he has been placed in a race since probably since he won the Kingston Town Stakes two years ago.”
Avilius prior to the Melbourne Cup. Pic: Racing Photos via Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Cummings has horses of all different profiles and ability in his operation and it will be a markedly different scene to Bivouac’s explosive win in last Saturday’s VRC Sprint Classic if Avilius grinds out a win at Sandown on Saturday.
Avilius hasn’t won for over a year but Cummings has certainly not lost faith – he has even allowed himself to think, all going well, about Avilius returning for an autumn campaign.
As much as the rising crop of young Godolphin horses excite him, Cummings admits he takes great delight out of training warrior horses in the twilight stages of their racing careers.
“We have had a pretty good record with horses in their later years of racing, horses like Hartnell and Precedence and even a horse like Duca Valentinois,” Cummings said.
“I find it very enjoyable and it gives me great satisfaction.
“Nothing is firmly on the agenda for Avilius in the future, but all going well I would have no qualms about him coming back for four or so runs in the autumn.”
James Cummings. Pic: Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Damien Oliver will team up with Avilius for the first time in the Zipping Classic and the gelding has drawn barrier five in the nine-horse field.
Scarlet Dream ($26) and Levendi ($61) are the only two contenders that bookies are giving little hope to.
Originally published asBeaten by 20 lengths in Melbourne Cup
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