Avilius (Image: ATC)

A bit of Saintly in Avilius

James Cummings is looking to one of his late grandfather's best horses Saintly for inspiration as he takes Avilius to the test of his life in Saturday's Cox Plate.

Avilius is unbeaten in four runs in Australia and is among the favourites for the Melbourne Cup, but Cummings sees something similar in this Northern Hemisphere four-year-old to what the legend Bart Cummings had in 1996 when Saintly snatched a centimetre margin in the Cox Plate.

"It (Saturday's race) will be, hopefully, a lot like Saintly was as a four-year-old in his spring career," Cummings said at Tuesday morning's barrier draw.

"It gives the horse a great opportunity to be tested against horses of an even higher calibre than what he's been facing in the set-weights-and-penalties and handicap races that he's come through in his four wins in Australia so far.

"If we're warming to the task really nice as a 20/1 chance then I think we'd be really pleased with him going ahead to Flemington."

Saintly was well-held in the 1996 Metropolitan Handicap at Randwick on October 7 when third as the race's 10/9 favourite. His feet were giving him trouble and he looked anything but a Cox Plate contender.

It was 19 days later that Saintly came off the canvas to win the Cox Plate and another 10 days on that he won the Melbourne Cup.

Cummings has something of a free hit with Avilius in the Cox Plate as he said he was certain the winning run in Australia of the horse would have come to an end if he'd chased last week's Caulfield Cup.

"I can breathe a little sigh of relief that we were right to do what we did there and keep him out of the Caulfield Cup," he said.

"Backmarkers just had no hope of featuring. They ran well, they weren't thereabouts.

"After he won The Bart Cummings, I felt that we didn't really need to run him again at a mile-and-a-half (2400m) to have ready for the cup.

"It was possible that he is clean-winded enough to go straight to the Melbourne Cup but he just kept doing too well so we kept him in the Cox Plate for that reason."

Cummings is praying there will be more speed in the Melbourne Cup.

"I'd like to see pressure in the Melbourne Cup and see it run a bit differently to that but it's one thing you can't predict is the Melbourne Cup," he said.

"You can be on the right horse or have the right horse but it might be the wrong year because they are always so different from one year to the next.

"The one thing about Avilius is that we know he's got the right nature and he's got the calm disposition to relax in the run and that's a really important factor."

Cummings was happy to have barrier one in Saturday's Cox Plate.

"The horse drew barrier one to win The Bart Cummings and he's a backmarker," he said. "He's the sort of horse that, when held up for a run, he really thrives and shows a good turn of foot late.

"It's a little like when I think back to his second-up win over 1900 metres at Rosehill, he sort of enjoyed  being held up briefly and then really let rip at the line.

"A run like that is his best chance of knocking off better-credentialed weight-for-age horses, of which he is not quite one yet but his four-win streak in Australia really has turned people's heads and I think he's a really interesting addition to the race.

"But will definitely be looking for two miles (3200m) after this weekend."

Cummings lamented the poor draw for Kementari in Friday night's $1 million Manikato Stakes.

"I'm not enthusiastic about seeing the horse settle down three-wide again," he said. "Being three-wide from just one barrier too wide in the Memsie cost him a Group 1 at weight-for-age and you don't just get them back.

"I'd love to see the race unfold nicely for him. If I can picture him zooming up into the race on the outside at least he's in the clear and he's getting the opportunity to show his turn of foot.

"He's got a sustained run within himself and if he uses that weaponry in a race of this nature then I think he's got an excellent chance of being very competitive and showing himself in a good light."