Trainer Scott Aspery believes Brenton Avdulla can handle the awkward racing style of his classy mare Estonian Princess when he shoots for the Villiers Stakes 2014 win with her in Sydney on Saturday.
The Snitzel four-year-old is one of 15 hopefuls facing off in this year’s $175,000 Group 2 Inglis Villiers Stakes (1600m), running as Randwick Race 6 at 4:15pm (AEDT).
Drawn mid-field in barrier seven with 53.5kg, the in-form galloper is the early Villiers Stakes betting market mover at Ladbrokes.com.au backed from $8 right into $6.50 to break a lengthy drought that extends to April.
Her latest win was a narrow victory over Northern Glory after working her way from last-to-first with a nice late charge to nail the leader right on the line in the Group 3 JHB Carr Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
Runner-up in this year’s Magic Millions 3YO Guineas on the Gold Coast, Estonian Princess was ridden by Avdulla the first time in the JHB Carr Stakes with the pair combining three times since.
“He just clicks with her,” Aspery told The Brisbane Times.
“She is very awkward to ride because she gets her head up and lays out. You have to know her to get the best out of her.”
They reunited when she returned to Randwick on October 11 putting in a top run to cross only a neck away second to Neena Rock in the Gorup 3 Angst Stakes (1600m).,
A luckless Group 1 fifth, beaten only 1.7 lengths after jumping from barrier 15 of 16, followed in the Group 1 Myer Classic (1600m) on Derby Day at Flemington.
“Both of those runs could have been wins,” Avdulla said.
Her Melbourne campaign continued in the Group 3 Summoned Stakes (1500m) at Sandown in mid-November when Michael Rodd took over, but she suffered respiratory issues and could only run fifth to Politeness.
Avdulla then jumped back in the saddle for her Villiers Stakes lead-up at Rosehill a fortnight ago, Estonian Princess crossing just a nostril flare after being grabbed late by I’m Imposing in the Listed Festival Stakes (1500m).
“Brenton has had four rides on her for a win and couple of very close seconds and a fifth in a group 1 where, if she’d had any luck, she would have won,” Aspery said.
“It’s strange how sometimes a jockey makes a difference and, for her, Brenton certainly does that.”
The Chris Waller-trained Festival Stakes winner I’m Imposing also runs in Saturday’s Villiers Stakes after the double Monton, racing in the event for the fourth straight year with the 59kg top weight as a $34 outsider in betting, achieved back in 2011.
“She didn’t get a lot of room late in the Festival to let go,” Avdulla said of Estonian Princess’s lead-up run.
“Generalife was laying in on her and I think if we had a clear run she could have held I’m Imposing off.
“She has drawn well in the Villiers and we will get the right run.”
In the Festival Stakes Estonian Princess carried 54kg to the winner’s 55.5kg but the mare gets the weight advantage for round two as she drops to 53.5kg and Waller’s $10 shot goes up to 56.5kg.
“I think she very well weighted when you look at it and I think she is really ready for the mile,” her jockey said.
Avdulla also said he was looking forward to the challenge of riding the mare again in this summer showdown.
“The best way to describe riding her is uncomfortable,” he said.
“She wants to get her head up and lay out and you felt like you need to stand over her.
“The first time I rode her I didn’t think we were going that fast because of the way she was going, but she was.”
That James Carr Stakes win was celebrated on a Soft (6) and that is a similar track condition to what she’ll get on the weekend.
“It was on a slow track as well, which could be important on Saturday,” Avdulla added.
A good performance from her and Aspery confirmed they would seriously look at a shot at the $3 million Group 1 The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) back at the track and distance on April 4 during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival 2015.
“I think she is up to that level and this is good chance to get there,” he said.
Waller is also represented in the Villiers Stakes field by his Festival Stakes third placegetter Strawberry Boy (57kg) with the rails run from barrier one with Jim Cassidy riding, and the imported Wyong Cup winner Multilateral in gate three who will be ridden half a kilo over his allocation up to 53.5kg to accommodate jockey Glyn Schofield.
Leading Villiers Stakes betting meanwhile is local Choisir gelding Sir Moments, the four-year-old Steven O’Dea-trained Queensland Guineas winner out to improve on a Festival Stakes fifth.
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