The unpredictable Vilanova is set to give premiership trainer Chris Waller back to back wins in the Group 1 $500,000 Channel Seven Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
Waller won last year’s version with Hawkspur who went through the 2013 Brisbane Winter Carnival undefeated and Vilanova has found his best form at the right time.
Vilanova was at the top of his game last start when he outclassed his opposition to win the Group 3 $150,000 Mullins Lawyers Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Doomben on May 24, but the three year old has rarely put two solid performances together.
“He is frustrating,” Waller told AAP.
“He needs things to go his way and I think he’s better on a wet track.
“I just hope this gives him confidence and he can repeat that win.”
But on face value, the way that Vilanova trounced the Grand Prix Stakes field, it is hard to see any of them reversing the placings when virtually the same field will line up in the Queensland Derby this week.
Leading Sydney jockey Nash Rawiller was only having his second ride on Vilanova in the Grand Prix Stakes and was very impressed with the three and half lengths victory but knows the Commands gelding can be hot and cold.
“Vilanova has always promised what he delivered the other day and, fingers crossed, he can carry that form into the Derby,’’ Rawiller told The Daily Telegraph.
“He just looked better than them. He was in a class of his own.’’
Vilanova showed glimpses of his potential as a two year old during last year’s Brisbane Winter Carnival with placings in the Group 2 $175,000 Bollinger Champagne Classic (1200m) at Eagle Farm and the Group 2 $250,000 Al Basti Equiworld BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1350m) at Doomben.
He then went on to run fourth to the Gai Waterhouse trained Romantic Touch in the Group 1 $500,000 Patinack Farm J.J. Atkins (1600m) at Eagle Farm.
After a fruitless Spring Carnival, Waller then slipped Vilanova back to restricted company to try to help him gain some confidence but he never found the winner’s stall until a trip to Melbourne in the Autumn saw him come from last on the home turn to swamp the leaders to win the Group 2 $220,000 BMW Caulfield Autumn Classic (1800m) at Caulfield on February 22.
Two unplaced efforts in the Group 2 $220,000 Sportingbet Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at Moonee Valley on March 14 and in the Group 2 $175,000 Nathan Berry Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on April 5 didn’t deter Waller and he sent Vilanova back to restricted company where he ran third over 1600m in a BenchMark 95 at Warwick Farm
Vilanova was then sent to Queensland and with Kerrin McEvoy in the saddle the three year old made up some ground late to finish fourth to Amexed in the Group 3 $125,000 Mittys Rough Habit Plate (2000m) at Doomben on May 10 before going on to win the Grand Prix Stakes.
After the Grand Prix Stakes win bookmakers had no choice but to install Vilanova as the favourite for the Queensland Derby with Ladbrokes.com.au offering $3.80 ahead of the John Sargent trained Elusive Runner and Pinstripe Lane at $4.80.
Kiwi filly Telepathic is next in the betting at $9.50 with Rudy at $10, Amexed and Rock Diva at $11 and Sonntag at $12.