Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 November 2020

Melbourne Cup: Avilius carries Godolphin hopes in 'the race that stops a nation'

Six-year-old gelding is a long shot in the 24-runner field but his trainer James Cummings is upbeat of his chances

Vow and Declare rides to victory to win the 2019 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. EPA
Vow and Declare rides to victory to win the 2019 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. EPA

Avilius carries Godolphin's hopes in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup after the Dubai-based operation decided not to fly over any of their UK-based horses for “the race that stops a nation”.

The six-year-old gelding is a long shot in the 24-runner field but his trainer James Cummings is upbeat of his chances of pulling off an upset in the Group 1 handicap.

“His lead up has been faultless and he’s coming to the race off the best run of his current campaign,” Cummings was quoted as saying on the Godolphin website.

“And if there is anything to be said for making amends for past misfortune, he is capable of saying it.”

Cummings was referring to Avilius' previous Melbourne Cup tilt in 2018, in which he suffered severe interference that put him out of the race as another Godolphin runner, Cross Counter, went on to win for trainer Charlie Appleby.

Since then, Avilius has won three Group 1 prizes and established himself as a horse with huge potential. He has run four times this season and his effort to finish sixth in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup two weeks ago suggests he will arrive at Flemington Racecourse in fine fettle.

Avilius comes up against several adversaries from the Caulfield Cup, including winner Verry Elleegant and 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, who finished second.

“In days gone by anyone doing their Melbourne Cup form would pay the closest attention to the Caulfield Cup,” Cummings said.

“What they’d see from this year’s race would be an Epsom Derby winner jump from a wide gate, come from last and go round the entire field and run second.

“They’d see Verry Elleegant show her turn of foot and win the race, and they’d see Avilius run up behind the leaders at the furlong and then they’d see him get stopped in his tracks at the furlong.

“It was the best run of his current preparation, and you want to be going into the Melbourne Cup off the back of your best run.”

Cummings believes Avilius is now racing more like a true stayer following his 2018 Melbourne Cup mishap.

“He showed great resilience to come back after what happened in the Cup two years ago,” he added.

Aidan O’Brien and his son Patrick are both double-handed in the race.

The senior O’Brien runs Anthony Van Dyck and the Irish Derby runner-up Tiger Moth while his son sends out Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment.

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2019 Melbourne Cup

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Verry Elleegant spearheads the local challenge along with former Aidan O’Brien inmate Sir Dragonet, winner of the Group 1 Cox Plate in his first start for Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

Prince Of Arran in the silks of Emirati businessman Saeed bel Obaida, trained in the UK by Charlie Fellowes, will hope the third time is a charm after finishing third in 2018 and second in last year's race.

The seven-year-old gelding appears to be in good nick after coming home fourth in the Caulfield Cup. He is drawn in gate No 1 and his handler is confident of another good showing over the two-mile distance.

“I think the draw is fine,” Fellowes said. “We can ride a race from there and get plenty of cover. It’s better than being caught out wide. It should be relatively straightforward.”

Updated: November 2, 2020 12:39 PM

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