Maestro Hall of Fame trainer Bart Cummings looks to have a very strong contender in Illo as he vies for an incredible 14th victory in the Flemington’s other famous cup, the 2012 Australian Cup, which would set a national record for wins in a single Group 1 race.
The current record of 13 wins is co-held by Cummings in the Australian Cup and the late-great Tommy Smith who prepared 13 Flight Stakes winners in his time.
Cummings will be dually represented in the $1 million Group 1 Dubai Australian Cup (2000m) this Super Saturday of Racing with Precedence and the better fancied of the duo, German import Illo.
“I couldn’t be happing with either horse,” Cummings said this week.
“They are going good.”
The Australian Cup 2012 field is down to eight hopefuls following the early scratching of the favourite Lucas Cranach who injured their leg and has been ruled out of the remainder of the autumn.
With Lucas Cranach it is former Melbourne Cup winner Americain, having their first run for new trainer David Hayes, who dominates the Australian Cup betting markets at bookmaker.com.au paying $2.20.
Earlier this week Cummings named the top two as the obvious ones to beat, so the master horseman is sure to be happy that one of the main dangers has since been removed from the race.
“Americain and Lucas Cranach are big, strong things and are good stayers,” Cummings said.
“They look the ones to beat.”
Second favourite it the markets now at a quote of $5.50 is then Illo, the Tertullina six-year-old third up for the season.
Illo debuted down under for Cummings last October finishing a brave third to Americian in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Cup (2500m).
They could only manage to finish 15th lengths away 19th in the Melbourne Cup however, Cummings’ unparalleled record in the world’s richest handicap remaining at 12.
Resuming at Caulfield on February 11 staying type Illo came up against the best sprinter in the business Black Caviar finishing fourth to the ‘Black Flash’ in the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m).
They were last seen finishing second behind Lucas Cranach in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m), a race that could just prove the form line for the Australian Cup.
Having put on a considerable amount of condition since arriving in Australian, Illo looks to be getting stronger with each run and Cummings said they were fast becoming a genuine stayer to watch.
“Illo is improving, putting weight on all the time, which is a good sign,” he said.
“He’s had a good spell after the spring and is much stronger and healthier now.
“The longer he is here, the better he will be.”
Cummings’ other runner in this year’s Australian Cup is $31 bookmaker.com.au outsider Precedence.
Zabeel six-year-old Precedence finished a credible fifth behind the since retired Shocking in last year’s Australian Cup, but they have failed to finish better than sixth in their eight runs since.
After crossing seventh in the Peter Young last start, Precedence is deserving of their roughie status in the Australian Cup odds and while hopeful Cummings knows they probably won’t be Australian Cup winner No. 14 for him on Saturday.
“He’s going OK,” Cummings said of Precedence.
“A lot depends on where he is positioned in the run but his work has been good this week and I’m happy with him.”
The other big-name players in the Australian Cup this weekend include fellow imports Glass Harmonium and Manighar, as well as last year’s classy Caulfield Cup champ Southern Speed.