Feature Story

Cummings believes Vilana has ‘X-Factor’ for Stradbroke

Cummings believes Vilana has ‘X-Factor’ for Stradbroke Jun 9, 2024

By Duane Fonseca - 

Godolphin Australia head coach James Cummings will aim Vilana at the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap on June 15 after the Hallowed Crown gelding put in a career-best performance to win the G2 Star Moreton Cup at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

The Stradbroke Handicap is contested at the same venue over a 1400m trip, a furlong (200m) more than the Star Moreton Cup, but after Vilana justified his favourites billing by pulling clear sharply to win by three-and-three-quarters of a length from Mazu with Jigsaw a further short head back in third, Cummings is confident his trainee can better last year’s 10th place finish in the race.

Vilana began his autumn campaign finishing second, three quarters in arrears to Mazu before a close sixth in the G3 BRC Sprint at Doomben two weeks earlier, but now that the placings have been reversed with Mazu, Cummings feels the Stradbroke Handicap is not entirely out of reach.

Cummings said: “The Stradbroke has always been a desirable goal for Vilana, he was beautifully placed in the set weights and penalties (on Saturday) and we felt he had a lot of hidden merit to his run in the BRC Sprint.
“It’s exciting to see him loom up and win a race like this so easily. I was trying to keep a lid on him in the last 200 metres, because he needs to have a bit of gas left in the tank for the Stradbroke.

“We liked the horse in the race two years ago as a three-year-old, and now that he’s been gelded this preparation he’s been flying. A couple of things haven't quite gone his way, but third-up he was bang on and is now on track for the Stradbroke in seven days.

“He was a rank outsider a week ago and we were struggling to find a jockey, but I think Tim Clark will be happy he got on the front foot and secured the ride.

“We know what we're doing with him, he's going so well that we just stick to the routine. Provided he pulls up well, we'll have him in good shape for the race. He's a dynamic late bloomer into the race given the form he carries into it, he's going to be a real X-factor.”

Winning jockey James McDonald was happy to have won, but simultaneously disappointed at having to miss Queensland’s most prestigious race due to weight restrictions.

He added: “I’ve qualified two horses for the Straddie, and can't get on either of them! Both are really good horses for that sort of race, they’re down in the weights and if it’s a fast run race I’m sure they'll produce the goods.

“He exploded and gave me a beautiful feel. The race panned out perfectly and he's been promising that sort of performance. He's a beauty to ride.

“It was a very good performance and it's difficult to split them, but Yellow Brick at 51 kilos has got to be a really good chance. He gave me an excellent feel so there's not much between them, I'll sit on the fence.”

Godolphin could have enjoyed a double on the card, but Inhibitions, for the Cummings-McDonald partnership, found himself devoid of racing luck in Ascot Green Queensland Day Stakes, a Listed 1200m sprint, won by Annabel Neasham’s Ostraka by two-and-three-quarters of a length under Blake Shinn. Inhibitions powered home but his effort was only good enough to steal a late second from Hedged, trained by Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr.

The feature event of the programme, the G1 Seven Queensland Oaks was won by Ciaron Maher’s Socks Nation, the ride of Ryan Maloney by a neck from Our Gold Hope with Miss Joelene a further two-and-a-half in arrears in third.