With an unprecedented 63.5kg, the form around Albury’s Bianco Vilano for a regulation country TAB Highway is as illuminating as Easter fireworks into Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Such an impost would deter racing’s bravest, but if three-decade regional training great Ron Stubbs declares with the wizardry of James McDonald, don’t dare oppose.
While Bianco Vilano concedes a whopping 6kg plus to recent series winners in a 54kg limit Class 3, $120,000, 1400m, all indications are the four-year-old powerhouse might still be too good, headed for far bigger occasions.
If there’s been a more impressive win in the Riverina by a restricted grade galloper than in the Albury Newhaven Park Country Championships qualifier in February, educated veterans, including Stubbs, couldn’t remember when.
From near last, wide and hampered on turning, Bianco Vilano explodes to win by a widening two lengths. And mind you, in track record time!
It looked like he’d just joined in at the 200m and could go another lap!
Then in the Country Championships Final at Royal Randwick, Bianco was an unlucky fourth, also from near last and again badly baulked behind the classy Sizzle Minizzle.
That three-year-old gelding was then a creditable fourth in the Group 3-Hawkesbury Guineas won by boom galloper Hawaii Five Oh.
Hence the whopping impost that deflated Stubbs and owners. They contemplated waiting another day, but stalled for the barrier draw which was favourable.
“That weight was a shock, so we talked it over again. We’d programmed this after the Championships Final and booked ‘J Mac’ well before the weights came out,” Stubbs explained.
“He’s ridden for us before, so if the best is available at the time, you go with them.
“And we didn’t want to miss a run when we had him ready and hadn’t nominated elsewhere.”
And no thought of an apprentice? “No, the top seniors mostly offset claimers with their experience.
“And with that weight you have to be confident of getting the right ride. He’s a big strong gelding and that much weight isn’t as much a factor as it is in staying races.
“And that level of prizemoney while we’re eligible. If we stay at the regionals he gets similar weight for a quarter the prizemoney.
“Still immature but tremendous natural ability. They just don’t do what he did at Albury out of restricted grade at four.
“And he didn’t have much luck in the Final either. He can race closer, midfield or better with James.
“Early preparation he did lead in a race at Wagga, and I didn’t want it that way – he’s best with cover.”
Added incentive for favourite supporters is the accomplished training record of Stubbs who rarely misses in spaced trips to town.
Over near 40 years, the journeyed veteran has won a multitude of city grade races in three states. His best, Spunlargo won a Listed race at Flemington near a decade ago and several Country Cups.
In recent seasons his star mare Boss Lady Rocks and Sparring have won Moonee Valley doubles. And Stubbs won early Highway races with Tap ‘N’ Run and Baledon, a brother to Bianco Vilano.
Tap ‘N’ Run ran second to Another One in the 2022 Country Championships Final and now Bianco Vilano has emerged on a similar path. After those successes Stubbs offered “the best team I’ve ever had.”
In early markets, Bianco Vilano is a $4.80 TAB fixed favourite (in from $5.50) in a wide betting race. “The Gardens” at present is a Soft 5 in fine weather.
– Racing NSW