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  • John Curtis


WEDNESDAY: March 31, 2021: WHEN Duais broke through for her first win at Newcastle in early December, Edward Cummings suggested she could develop into an Oaks filly.

That became closer to reality at Warwick Farm today when the lightly-raced three-year-old not only made her mark in town but in the process provided her fifth generation Hawkesbury trainer with a city breakthrough in his own right.

Having previously shared training duties with his father Anthony at Royal Randwick, Cummings went solo two years ago, setting up shop to train at the provincial track.

He is enjoying easily his best season – Duais (Hugh Bowman) was his ninth winner since August – and underlined his skills by preparing the filly to land the Benchmark 72 Handicap (1600m) against her own sex at her first start since finishing second over 1800m on her home track on February 9.

Duais ($8.50) impressively ran down front-runner Darling Diamond ($4 co-favorite) to score by a half-length, with third placegetter Ruby Tuesday ($10) a further one and a half lengths behind.

With a city breakthrough done and dusted, Cummings is now eyeing bigger riches over the next few weeks of the Sydney autumn carnival, including the two days of The Championships at Randwick.

He intends giving Duais her chance to clinch a start in the $1m Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick on April 17 by winning the Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) there on Saturday week on the opening day of The Championships.

“I have taken my time with this filly, and intended to run her at home last Thursday over 1600m (the meeting could not be held as flooding caused a number of road closures) and then go to the Adrian Knox a fortnight later,” Cummings said this evening.

“But we had no choice to change plans and run her today.

“I still feel she is capable of backing up and performing in the Adrian Knox and, provided she runs well again, we’ll go on to the Oaks.

“Hugh (Bowman) also rode Duais when placed in a 1200m Randwick trial on March 11, and I feel he will be keen to stick with her in the Adrian Knox if she gets his weight.”

Duais, a daughter of 2013 Cox Plate winner Shamus Award, is raced by her breeders Matthew Irwin and the Harris family, who purchased her lightly-raced dam, the Johannesburg mare Meerlust, a Grafton winner on debut in 2011, at the 2009 Scone yearling sale.

Duais is a half-sister to eight-times winner, the now retired mare Baccarat Baby, whose eight wins included the 2019 Sunshine Coast Guineas, the same race which four years earlier set Winx on her freakish unbeaten streak.

Whilst Cummings is looking forward to backing up Duais, who has raced only seven times for two wins and three seconds, in the Adrian Knox, he has an even more pressing matter when Rosehill Gardens’ Golden Slipper Festival concludes on Saturday.

Another of his promising three-year-olds, the More Than Ready colt Prompt Prodigy, lines up in the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m), seeking to cement a berth in the $2m Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick a week later.

Prompt Prodigy broke through over 1500m at Newcastle on January 30 before finishing second at his next two starts at Canberra (1600m) and Hawkesbury (1800m).

“He probably should have won his last three runs, and has trained on well since his unlucky run at Hawkesbury on March 6,” Cummings said.

“The plan is to go on to the Derby the following Saturday if he runs well in the Tulloch.”

Though Prompt Prodigy is at luxury odds ($31) in early Tulloch markets, it is worth nothing he now meets second favorite Favreau ($4.40) 2.5kg better than when narrowly beaten by him over 1600m at Canberra on February 19.

Last season’s premier Hawkesbury jockey Rachel King rides Prompt Prodigy at Rosehill.

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