Trainer James Cummings can’t help but smile when asked about the weight of expectation he carries into the race his legendary late grandfather Bart Cummings made his own.
The same goes for the pressure placed on him by global racing giants Godolphin in their ongoing quest for a breakthrough Melbourne Cup.
But the 30-year-old with an impeccable pedigree believes British-bred Avilius gives him a strong chance to write his own slice of cup history today after four wins in his past five starts.
“We have a huge amount of respect for the opposition and as far as handicaps go, this is the greatest test our horse has had all campaign,” Cummings said.
“But we have a bit of faith in Avilius. He’s four out of five this time in and he was a strong winner with a bit of weight in the Bart Cummings two starts ago over 2500m at Flemington.
“So, it’s one start, one win at headquarters. He just looks really nice coming back there for the two-mile grand final.”
Cummings said Avilius’ staying ability and turn of foot would put him around the mark in the 3200m test.
“There are a few factors that I like about the horse that give him a good chance, but this is a really deep field,” he said.
“It’s the sort of race where chances are coming from everywhere, as you should expect in a handicap. The form from all over the world has been brought together.
“But I’ve noticed that he’s a stayer with a turn of foot. He’s had one try at a staying journey for us and he’s got up and won it with a big weight (58.5kg).
“He’s a European import and that seems to be the right sort of horse that you need for this race.
“With those factors falling in his favour, I think it reads well.”
“But there are some really strong stayers in the even and he’s really going to have to step up a few lengths to beat them.”
Bart Cummings won a record 12 Melbourne Cups, first with Light Fingers in 1965 and last with Viewed in 2008. His father Jim Cummings won it in 1950 with Comic Court and James is eager to add to the family’s success.
“I think it’s the greatest race we’ve got in the country and, for that reason, I think winning that race would mean more than any other,” he said.
Jockey Glyn Schofield was pleased with drawing barrier 11.
“It gives an option to be very comfortable,” he said.
“He’s not a go-forward horse early, he’s just a nice, relaxed individual and I think that’s the key to this fellow.”