A couple of Melbourne Cup winners are among the horses set to add a new dimension to the Group One Australian Cup from the recent lead-up races.
But trainer James Cummings says favourite Avilius has had a faultless build-up for Saturday's 2000m weight-for-age Group One race at Flemington having won the Carlyon Stakes (1600m) and Peter Young Stakes (1800m) in the past month.
Avilius was the clear-cut $1.80 favourite for the Australian Cup on Tuesday ahead of Night's Watch who is the only other horse under double figures at $9 with acceptances taken on Wednesday.
“He's had a faultless campaign and this is a target race, his best opportunity to win a Group One since arriving in Australia last year,” Cummings said.
“This will be a really important weekend for Avilius to show that he can sustain the pressure of a Group One.
“The horses on Saturday will be peaking and there's some fresh form going into the event, but he's had the right form and he's come out of the right races.
“Getting to Flemington again where he was able to win The Bart Cummings last preparation will suit him nicely, I think, and he's looking for 2000 metres all over off his effort last start.”
The Australian Cup field is expected to include the 2016 and 2017 Melbourne Cup winners Almandin and Rekindling.
Almandin has not raced since last year's Sydney Cup while Rekindling has not started since his Melbourne Cup win.
Another import set to run first-up in the Australian Cup is last year's Ebor Handicap winner Muntahaa who will be having his first start for the Lindsay Park stable having made his Australian debut when unplaced in last year's Melbourne Cup for his former trainer John Gosden.
Cummings is set to saddle up the favourites in the two features at Flemington on Saturday with Osborne Bulls heading the Newmarket Handicap market for which the stable also has Oakleigh Plate runner-up Encryption.
There will also be some added star power at the meeting, with the Cummings-trained All-Star Mile favourite Alizee to gallop between races in preparation for Saturday week's $5 million race at the same track.
“She's just ticking over nicely,” Cummings said.
“And she will be nicely topped off with a gallop between races at Flemington.”