Vilana earns a crack at the rich Stradbroke. Colt wins second Stakes race and now ballot-free for feature G1 at Eagle Farm
Talented Godolphin three-year-old Vilana looks certain to line up in the $1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap next month after scoring a tenacious win in the G3 Fred Best Classic over 1,400m at Eagle Farm on Saturday, 28 May.
Jockey Sam Clipperton parked Vilana into the perfect spot, fifth just behind the leaders to home turn before angling into the clear.
The Hallowed Crown colt raced to the lead and then held off the fast-finishing Kiss Sum to win by a half-length, with Battleton another three-quarters of a length away in third place.
An impressive winner of the Listed South Pacific Classic (1,400m) on a bog track at Randwick two starts earlier, Vilana showed his versatility to clock a fast 1 minute 22.43 seconds on the improving Good 4 surface.
Vilana also made amends for a slightly disappointing fifth in the Hawkesbury Guineas (1,400m) on 30 April and is now exempt from the ballot for the G1 Stradbroke over 1,400m at Eagle Farm on 11 June.
Vilana has now won four races and been placed once in six starts, taking his prize money swag to A$316,300.
Head trainer James Cummings was in Brisbane to witness the win and was impressed with the performance.
“He’s rather lightly raced and it’s not a bad thing to be coming into this two weeks out from the Stradbroke,” Cummings said.
“We thought about him for the Stradbroke in the initial nominations, but after he faded on his run in the Hawkesbury Guineas we couldn’t quite see it happening.
“Consequently we’ll have to pay up now because we left him out of first declarations.
“The win was good enough and probably from that prize money we could arguably find the money necessary to throw him back in.
“The right call was made by freshening him up since his failure in the Hawkesbury Guineas, we probably just made a bit too much use of him.
“He was really our trackwork horse of the week and he’s got up and delivered on the day, which is pleasing to see from a young colt with a bit of a future ahead of him.”
Vilana also impressed Clipperton, who has now ridden the horse at his past four starts but may not be able to get down to the expected 50kg handicap in the Stradbroke.
“He’s a bit untapped this colt, I’ve got a lot of time for him,” Clipperton said.
“That’s the first time I’ve ridden him on a good track and he gave me a lovely feel.
“He’s a very professional type. He’s going through his grades lovely.
“He’s been beautifully placed and he’s done a good job today.”
Cummings may have another three-year-old in the Stradbroke if stablemate Paulele pulls up well after his brave and narrow second in the G1 Kingsford-Smith Cup (1,300m) at Eagle Farm.
Paulele (James McDonald) just failed to catch the speedy Apache Chase, with Eleven Eleven another nose away in third place in the traditional Stradbroke Handicap lead-up.
“It looks positive, he’s definitely a chance, he ran admirably once again,” Cummings said.
“We could possibly have Paulele (54.5kg) and Vilana in the race.”
Hoofnote: Former Queensland apprentice Zac Lloyd rode his first winner since transferring his indentures to Godolphin when Huon won the Tynan Maiden Plate at the Newcastle provincial meeting on Saturday.
Lloyd had ridden two winners at Gosford two days earlier for outside stables.
“That’s his first (winner) for us, he’s had a good week,” Cummings added.