Bril­liant Avil­ius proves he can chal­lenge for man­tle of na­tion’s best

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RACING -

AVIL­IUS re­turned to his bril­liant best and an­nounced him­self as a le­git­i­mate chal­lenger for the na­tion’s best race­horse with an out­stand­ing win at Royal Rand­wick yes­ter­day.

Godol­phin trainer James Cum­mings called Avil­ius’s win a “rip­ping per­for­mance” as he dom­i­nated a class field in the Group 1 $500,000 Ge­orge Main Stakes (1600m). It was Avil­ius’s third Group 1 win this year and he is poised to claim the No.1 rank­ing va­cated by Winx, win­ner of this race for the past three years.

Winx used the Ge­orge Main Stakes to launch her Cox Plate-win­ning cam­paigns and it is the likely path Cum­mings will set Avil­ius.

“That was a Cox Plate ef­fort to­day,’’ Cum­mings said.

“His first runs this cam­paign demon­strated he might have been more a Caulfield Cup horse but we have some think­ing to do now. The horse is air­borne. He was very im­pres­sive.’’

Avil­ius ($3.10 favourite) set­tled worse than mid­field be­fore Ker­rin McEvoy took him wide on the turn where the geld­ing un­leashed ex­plo­sive ac­cel­er­a­tion to sweep past a gal­lant Dream­force ($4) to win by a widen­ing 2¼ lengths with ev­er­green Happy Clap­per ($6) 1¼ lengths away third.

To un­der­line the qual­ity of the Ge­orge Main field, fin­ish­ing fourth, five and sixth were Group 1 win­ners Verry Ellee­gant ( Vin­ery Stud Stakes, ATC Aus­tralian Oaks), An­gel Of Truth ( ATC Aus­tralian Derby) and Sa­madoubt ( Winx Stakes).

Avil­ius was beaten as favourite be­hind Sa­madoubt in suc­ces­sive races this spring but Cum­mings kept the faith.

“We haven’t lost any con­fi­dence in him,’’ the trainer said.

“He was third-up to­day and he had to be up to a cer­tain level to put a horse like Dream­force away.

“It was re­ally good to see from our per­spec­tive a lit­tle bit of rain around this week and it was even bet­ter to see some pres­sure in the race.

“When Ker­rin was able to sweep up into the race, he was go­ing to be the strong horse late and we’re very proud of him to put Dream­force away with that turn of foot.’’

McEvoy said he was “a lit­tle bit wor­ried” by the lack of a gen­uine tempo early. “But I was able to get a bit of a trail up and he showed a good turn of foot,’’ he said.

“He likes that ground, he can still quicken in that ground.

“He’s done it at a mile here to­day but I think he is a typ­i­cal 2000m to 2400m horse, which is what we learned in the au­tumn.

“To see him show that speed there to­day was a plus.’’

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