Classy mare Avienus is set to improve on an unflattering start to her spring campaign and become the first dual winner of the Group Two Stocks Stakes at Moonee Valley.
Avienus has not won since taking out the 1600-metre feature a year ago but has been backed from $31 to $18 with TAB Sportsbet for Saturday and trainer Mark Webb says she can break the drought.
“She has been totally set for this race and will go in there with a great chance,” Webb said.
Avienus, who finished sixth to So You Think in last year’s Cox Plate, was unplaced in five runs last autumn and this campaign hasn’t got closer than 10th in her two runs.
Webb said horrendous barrier draws last campaign worked against Avienus who was still competitive in most of her runs.
“Nothing went right for her in the autumn including the barrier draws,” Webb said.
So far, on paper, Avienus’ spring has been inglorious but Webb is unfazed by her first-up 10th to Mid Summer Music in the Group Three Cockram Stakes and 12th to Pinnacles in the Fallen Jockeys Memorial Handicap (1400m), particularly as last start she was only beaten 2-1/4 lengths when running home from the tail of the field.
“Her two runs to date this time in have been fantastic,” Webb said, dismissive of the lowly placings.
“The other day she drew 15 of 16 and had no option but to go back with high speed in the race, but she hit the line strongly and her sectionals were enormous.”
He said the outside barrier (14) was a challenge again on Saturday but he would instruct Kane Bradley to go forward and make his own luck.
“She can race forward, back, or midfield but tomorrow being a wide draw there is no point going back to last at the Valley,” Webb said.
The Stocks Stakes was first run in 1973 and its winners include Alcove, Arctic Scent, She’s Archie, Devil Moon, Tuesday Joy and Zarita.
Webb said the race was Avienus’ first major goal this spring ahead of the Cox Plate.
“It just depends on how she runs on Saturday and in her next start after that in the Yalumba Stakes at Caulfield whether she gets there,” he said.
Sensational last-start Memsie Stakes winner King’s Rose is the Stocks favourite after firming from $2.90 to $2.70 ahead of last week’s Let’s Elope winner Pinker Pinker ($4.20) and Lady Lynette ($6.50).