THURSDAY: April 15, 2021: HAWKESBURY trainers Edward Cummings and Claire Lever are seeking career milestones on Day 2 of The Championships at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Cummings, enjoying a breakout season since branching out on his own two years ago, has hat-trick seeker Duais lining up in the $1m Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m).
Lever, in only her first season of training, has done a superb job to qualify two horses – Grace Bay and Diva Bella – for the $500,000 Polytrack Provincial Championships Final (1400m).
Shamus Award filly Duais provided fifth generation trainer Cummings with his first metropolitan winner at a midweek Warwick Farm meeting on March 31, then went to another level when she gave him his first black type success by landing last Saturday’s Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on the opening day of The Championships.
Now he aims to emulate his brother James, who won last year’s Oaks with Colette, by clinching a maiden Group 1 victory.
Cummings is delighted with his filly’s progress this week, and has no qualms about backing her up on Saturday.
“Duais has done well since the Adrian Knox, and had her final gallop at Hawkesbury this morning,” he said today.
“She is very fresh and ready to run well again.
“Obviously, it is a tougher assignment this time, but I’m confident she will cope with both the back up and the Oaks 2400m.
“Hopefully, she is the strongest filly at the finish.”
Cummings’ Oaks hopes were boosted when Hugh Bowman was keen to continue his partnership with Duais.
He rode her in her Warwick Farm win and again in the Adrian Knox last Saturday.
Meanwhile, former jockey Lever is relying on “girl power” as she bids to win the Provincial Championships Final after taking out her licence at the beginning of the season.
Both her representatives are mares, and will be ridden by outstanding jockeys in Kathy O’Hara and Rachel King.
O’Hara has the mount on Grace Bay, and King rides Diva Bella.
Diva Bella (2nd) and Grace Bay (3rd) qualified for the Final when they chased home Kembla Grange mare Gemmahra in Hawkesbury’s heat on March 6.
Lever is following a successful pattern by spacing Grace Bay’s runs; the mare not having raced since that heat.
She did, however, have a tick-over 1000m trial at Gosford on April 7, finishing third to Café Royal.
Diva Bella followed her Hawkesbury qualifier by finishing unplaced in a Benchmark 72 Handicap (1300m) at Warwick Farm on March 31. She drew awkwardly that day and was slow to begin.
As Cummings has his home track’s sole representative in the Oaks, Lever has Hawkesbury’s only runners in the Provincial Final.
Leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup also has a Randwick representative on Saturday. His smart mare Adelong resumes in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) against her own sex, and will be ridden by Andrew Adkins.