Simon Ryan’s search for a hurdler could turn into a profitable exercise well before Vilanova is given his chance over jumps.
Ryan bought Vilanova at a tried-horses’ sale in March as a replacement for his injured jumper Practiced and the Warrnambool trainer came away with a stayer that almost landed his hometown Cup earlier this month.
He parted with $78,000 to secure the former Chris Waller-trained horse and now Vilanova will run over the Melbourne Cup course and distance in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
A jumps career is on hold.
“His run in the Warrnambool Cup was pretty good and just at the moment we’ll give him a couple more starts on the flat,” Ryan said.
“If he’s competitive at Saturday’s level we might give the jumping a miss this season and keep him for races in Melbourne during the off-season.
“If he doesn’t run in the top three we won’t be slitting our wrists as there’s plenty of good handicaps coming up over the winter months.”
Ryan said his greatest fear with Vilanova had been the long campaign the gelding has endured.
But visits to the beach had kept Vilanova’s mind fresh and the only time he’s been to the track has been for schooling sessions.
Vilanova has a rating that allows him to run in quality races such as the Warrnambool Cup and Andrew Ramsden as well as off-season handicaps.
“This is probably the last of the better races and two or three of the better ones might go for a let-up and come back for the spring whereas we might pick off a few that might lack the depth of Saturday,” Ryan said.
“If he wins another one or two he’ll get to the top of the handicap which might be a problem, but it will be a good problem to have.”
Ryan joked it might not be the best day to win a race at Flemington where Victorian members of the Australian Hall Of Fame will be celebrated.
Ryan’s uncle Pat Hyland has been announced as an Australian Racing Hall of Fame inductee.
“They’ll all be talking about the Hall Of Fame and my uncle will take the limelight of me,” Ryan said.
“Seriously though he’s a rarity. He’s still riding work at 74.
“He’s been great for the game and it’s well deserved.”