The talented but erratic Hard Liquor will be out to enhance his Villiers Stakes prospects when he shoots for back-to-back city wins on Saturday.
The four-year-old was described by Anthony Cummings’ stable foreman Barry Smith as “a pest” with a few tricks up his sleeve after his win at Randwick last start, but he maintained the gelding’s talent had never been in question.
Cummings also concedes the four-year-old still has plenty to learn but believes he has already shown enough talent to be considering the Group Two Villiers next month.
The trainer will get a better idea of his prospects when Hard Liquor lines up in Saturday’s ATC Foundation Membership Handicap over the same 1600m course at Warwick Farm as this year’s Villiers.
“It (the Villiers) is certainly not out of the question,” Cummings said.
“But in the Villiers he would need to get a bit more tractable. He’s still learning his craft, he still overreacts to things but the day he puts it together he is well capable of winning a race like that.
“He’s not a simple horse to deal with in any way shape or form. But he’s a talented horse so you cop it a bit and just try to get the best out of him.”
Cummings believes Hard Liquor’s best campaigns are still ahead of him and said he saw some positive signs on Tuesday morning ahead of Saturday’s event.
“I was really taken by his work yesterday. I thought that was probably the most tractable I had seen him and he hit the line really good,” Cummings said.
“The race certainly doesn’t seem any harder than last time so he should run well.”
Hard Liquor finished fourth over 1800m on Melbourne Cup day at Randwick before backing up on the Saturday to win over 1600m despite still doing a few things wrong.
Cummings said another winning performance on Saturday would only enhance Hard Liquor’s chances of heading towards the Villiers.
“It was a very impressive win the other day to travel as wide as he did and make such a long run,” Cummings said.
“I thought it was what’s required to be good enough for a Villiers. For mine he’s already shown that he’s well capable of that but it’s really a matter of improving his race craft and working on that side of things.”