Australian Thoroughbred

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24/10/2019 Wet track expected to work in favour of Avilius in G1 Cox Plate

An uncharacteristic disappointment by Avilius has been largely forgiven thanks to a couple of vital gallops and the forecast of rain that could provide the former French galloper with ideal conditions in Saturday’s G1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.

In a race monopolised for the past four years by the champion mare Winx, Avilius (Kerrin McEvoy) remains one of the leading chances despite finishing fourth in his lead-up run in the G1 Caulfield Stakes at Caulfield two weeks ago.

“We ran him expecting to see good improvement going into the Cox Plate,” said trainer James Cummings.

"It didn’t work out that way, but he’s in very good order, he galloped well at Moonee Valley on Saturday, he’s got the gate and he looks like getting the track conditions to suit him.”

Avilius also had a slight issue after a trickle of blood was found in one nostril on the weekend, but stewards on Tuesday gave the all-clear after the horse galloped at Flemington.

That piece of work followed another at Moonee Valley last Saturday, the first time Avilius has been to the track since finishing fourth to Winx in last year’s Cox Plate.

Cummings and his team can also take heart from Avilius’s autumn campaign when a failure on a firm track in the G1 Australian Cup at Flemington was followed by outstanding G1 victories on heavy ground in the Ranvet Stakes and the Tancred Stakes at Rosehill.

With rain forecast in Melbourne over the two days of the Moonee Valley, Cummings is more than hopeful of a similar turnaround in Avilius’s form.

“If the heavy traffic from eight races on Friday night and then from Saturday’s racing means they are getting into the track, then he should be suited,” he said.

“The Cox Plate is run late on Saturday with a full card on Friday night to chop up the ground a bit.

“When they’re really getting their toe into it, Avilius is well-suited, so with rain forecast for Friday and Saturday it will be perfect.”

Avilius, who began his career with Andre Fabre in France, is one of 11 overseas-bred entries in the 14-horse Cox Plate field with the Japanese runner Lys Gracieux widely regarded as one of the strongest chances.

Lys Gracieux, a mare by Heart’s Cry, is a last start winner of the Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshu in June when ridden by Australian Damien Lane who retains the mount.

Also in contention is the Irish-trained Magic Wand and Cape Of Good Hope, also from Ireland and the winner of the Caulfield Stakes at his first Australian start.

Godolphin’s second Cox Plate entrant Dream Castle is the fourth reserve in the race and is most unlikely to gain a start.

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