Trainer James Cummings is relying on Astoria in his bid to win back-to-back Victoria Derbys and believes the colt has had the right foundation for the Classic.
A capacity field of 16 plus one emergency has been declared for Saturday’s $1.5 million Derby with last-start Geelong Classic minor placegetter Astoria to begin from the inside barrier.
A year ago Cummings became a fourth generation member of his famous family to train the winner of a Victoria Derby when Prized Icon took out the 2500m Victoria Derby for three-year-olds at Flemington.
“It would be nice to go back-to-back,” Cummings said.
Cummings is now in his first spring carnival as head trainer in Australia for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and believes Astoria has been building nicely towards the Derby.
“His effort giving weight away in the Geelong Classic was a nice one and he looks to have trained on well again with a nice piece of work this morning (Tuesday),” Cummings said.
“Importantly he’s got a great foundation to run well in that race.”
Cummings believes Astoria will be able to run the Derby distance out strongly.
Like Prized Icon in 2016, Cummings is sending Astoria into the Derby at his sixth start of the spring and the trainer can see similarities.
Prized Icon was a Group One winner as a juvenile before embarking on his Derby campaign while Astoria won one of his three starts as a two-year-old and was second in the Group Three Baillieu Handicap.
“They have both had plenty of racing and both came out of their most recent runs (heading into the Derby) in great order to convince me that they’re capable of running well,” Cummings said.
“Astoria hasn’t quite got the Group One credentials that Prized Icon had but he still won the (Group Three) Spring Stakes in August as a spring three-year-old and he’s brought two-year-old stakes form through the old Baillieu Stakes.
“So he’s had plenty of racing and plenty of experience as most Derby winners seem to need.”
Main Stage is the favourite at $4.80 despite drawing barrier 14 while Spring Champion Stakes winner Ace High is at $5 and has barrier three.
Cummings has decided to take winkers off $15 chance Astoria while trainer Chris Waller has applied winkers to Tangled who shares the second line of betting at $7 with Sully.
Geelong Classic winner Weather With You is at $7.50.