Bunny Doesn’t Deliver Easter Cup Alley for Avienus

Cranbourne trainer Mark Webb will be shaking his head after his Reset mare Avienus suffered an early blow to her Easter Cup claims coming up with barrier 14 of 17 for this Saturday’s showdown at Caulfield.

Five-year-old Avienus was one of 17 horses, 16 starters plus one emergency, accepted for this year’s $125,000 Group 3 Easter Cup (2000m).

Earlier in the week Webb expressed hopes that Avienus would get some luck in the Easter Cup barrier draw after failing to place in her five starts this season.

In three of her five runs this prep Avienus has been dealt a double-digit gate, one of the reasons accounting for why she has failed to produce the same promising form she did during the spring.

“I don’t think she’s going quite as well as she was in the spring for some reason. I can’t really put a finger on it,” Webb said.

“But in saying that she has had a nice run of performances, just without luck from bad barriers which have cost her from either winning or placing.

“She’s been unlucky in that she’s drawn a lot of wide barriers throughout her career.”

After winning the Group 2 Stocks Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley last September, Avienus enjoyed a number of other eye-catching spring starts including her sixth, beaten less than two lengths by More Joyous, in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) and her credible sixth to superstar So You Think in the premier weight-for-age showdown on the calendar, the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).

Last start Avienus was beaten just over a length when fifth to Vivid Vixen in an 1800m handicap at Caulfield on April 9.

Webb saw something in this run that hinted at improvement to come from his mare.

“Her run was good with no luck, her work has been great,” Webb said.

“The Easter Cup is certainly a good race and with the weight (54kg) I’m certainly looking forward to it.”

On Saturday Avienus and jockey Steven King face a tough test as they jump from barrier 14 in what looks to be a quality Easter Cup field.

The big winner in the Easter Cup barrier draw was Mark Kavanagh’s Shamoline Warrior drawn on the rails in alley one and due to be ridden by apprentice jockey Billy Eagan.

A stakes winner during the spring, the four-year-old son of Shamardal showed potential again last start when third to Vivid Vixen at Caulfield, Shamoline Warrior having had a number of set-backs throughout their career.

“Shamoline Warrior is only a young, lightly-raced horse and hopefully he can win the Easter Cup and come back for the Cups,” assistant trainer Merv Harvey said.

“All he needs is a bit of luck now.”

Other in-form gallopers that have genuine claims for the 2011 Easter Cup include the Mick Price-trained Galileo four-year-old Spacecraft and Lee Freedman’s defending Easter Cup winner Fanjura who both came up with favourable draws set to start from barriers three and four respectively.

Also among the challengers to take out the Easter Cup trophy are last-start winners Paddy O’Reilly (barrier five) who won the Albury Cup over 2000m on March 25 and Lloyd Williams’ Encosta De Lago four-year-old Niblick (barrier 12).

Peter Moody’s former Macau champion Luen Yat Forever is the 58kg topweight of the field.

The most notable defector from the Easter Cup following nominations was promising Victorian galloper Flat Chat, the John Sadler-trained gelding not paid up for despite showing good form in winning the National Jockeys Trust Handicap (1600m) at Flemington last weekend which was the five-year-old’s fourth successive victory.

The Easter Cup is one of two Group features running at Caulfield on Easter Saturday along with the $125,000 Group 3 Victoria Handicap (1400m).

2011 Le Pine Funterals Easter Cup Final Field & Barrier Draw

# Form (Last 10) Horse Trainer Jockey Barrier Weight Hcp. Rating
1 X4045X8929 LUEN YAT FOREVER Peter G Moody Steven Arnold 6 58kg 103
2 1118X46373 SPACECRAFT Mick Price Craig Newitt 3 57.5kg 102
3 1X2754X342 FANJURA (IRE) Lee Freedman Noel Callow 4 56.5kg 100
4 2X211X2126 LAUNAY Peter Snowden Mark Zahra 8 56.5kg 100
5 00402X0562 FIELD HUNTER Darren Weir Ben Melham 16 56kg 99
6 6512266010 WIND SHEAR Dale Sutton Stephen Baster 7 55.5kg 98
7 57X41163X0 ZOOMIN (NZ) Michael Kent Dean Yendall 13 55.5kg 98
8 25413X8341 PADDY O’REILLY (NZ) Robert Smerdon 5 54.5kg 95
9 1666X09855 AVIENUS Mark Webb Steven King 14 54kg 99
10 X0708X5820 EXTRA ZERO David Hayes James Winks 2 54kg 93
11 24112X0824 KUTCHINSKY Tony Noonan Jake Noonan (a) 15 54kg 93
12 211X0X9803 SHAMOLINE WARRIOR Mark Kavanagh Billy Egan (a) 1 54kg 93
13 141113X291 NIBLICK Robert Hickmott Michael Walker 12 53.5kg 92
14 1111X26337 BELGIETTO Peter Gelagotis 11 53.5kg 89
15 1932X70252 DE FINE LAGO Tony Vasil 9 53.5kg 88
16 143X927840 ABITOFADO (NZ) Michael Moroney Ms Lisa Cropp 17 53.5kg 87
17e 23X8143401 STOLE (NZ) Brian Jenkins 10 53.5kg 85