A rain-affected return to Randwick has forced John O’Shea to reconsider the depth of Godolphin’s challenge on the Group Two Villiers Stakes.
O’Shea was expecting to have last-start ATC Cup winner Malice and Duca Valentinois as worthy opposition to the warm favourite Fabrizio.
But that dual-handed plan has suffered a setback with Randwick receiving more than 35mm of rain in the past 48 hours, putting the track into the heavy range ahead of Saturday’s showpiece meeting.
Malice doesn’t like soft going and O’Shea’s assistant trainer Darren Beadman said the six-year-old was a doubtful runner in the $250,000 race.
“Malice is a bit of a duffer on (the wet ground) and we might wait for a race like the Summer Cup. He’s got a few options,” Beadman said.
Duca Valentinois steps up in class but is down in weight.
The import’s wet track record is sound with two wins and a placing from six starts in soft going and on the 53kg minimum with Brenton Avdulla as his rider, he promises to be one of the best outsiders as a $21 chance.
Randwick track manager Nevesh Ramdhani said despite an improved weather forecast for Saturday, he expected only a minimal improvement in a surface that hasn’t been raced on for six weeks.
“With the rain that has fallen it’s going to take a lot more than twenty-four hours for it to dry out,” he said.
Almost nine years ago Chris Waller and Hugh Bowman teamed up to claim a Villiers in extraordinary circumstances and they will join forces with Amovatio.
In a controversial protest decision, Honor In War won the race in the stewards’ room from Takeover Target in one of two editions run in 2008.
The Villiers was run in a January timeslot over an abbreviated course as racing recovered from a shutdown caused by equine influenza and Honor In War came from the rails draw.
It’s the same barrier from which Amovatio will launch his claim over a distance at which the best of his three wins came in this year’s Hawkesbury Cup.
“He’s going to get a nice, easy run. Hopefully in a midfield position,” Waller said.
“A tough Randwick mile on a wet track won’t worry him and I expect him to be finishing strongly.”
Amovatio is a $13 chance but there was merit in his lead-up run when beaten less than a length into fourth place in the Festival Stakes and he has been trained to peak for the Villiers.
Fabrizio has raced once in heavy going, beating midweek horses at Canterbury on his way to becoming one of the most promising horses trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.