Trainer Chris Waller is confident that Vilanova can return to his best form in the TAB.Com.Au Handicap (1350m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday after being gelded at the end of his disappointing 2013 Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
Vilanova was competitive with superstar stablemate Zoustar during the 2013 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, finishing second in the Group 2 Champagne Classic (1200m), second in the Group 2 BRC Sires’ Produce (1350m) and fourth in the Group 1 J.J. Atkins (1600m), but was unable to replicate that form in the spring.
The son of Commands started his preparation with a credible third behind War in the Group 3 Up And Coming Stakes (1300m) and had no luck when tenth in the Group 3 Ming Dynasty Quality (1400m) before finishing fifth in the Group 3 Spring Stakes (1600m) at Newcastle.
Vilanova never got into the contest in the Listed TAB Dulcify Quality (1600m) at Royal Randwick on October 5 and was ridden closer to the speed before fading badly in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at the same venue a fortnight later.
Waller told AAP that Vilanova performed well in Brisbane despite having no luck in each of his runs and remains confident that the three-year-old has the talent to perform at the highest level of racing.
“Zoustar had luck in Brisbane with good draws and good runs, Vilanova had no luck and was still running close to Zoustar after sitting three-wide with no cover and things like that,” Waller said.
“They don’t lose their ability, it is just a matter of finding it, it is still there.”
Waller has already had success with horses who have been gelded this season; with stayer Hoylonny returning to his best form this preparation after failing to race at his best during the 2013 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
Hoylonny performed poorly in his two starts immediately after being gelded, failing to beat home a single runner, and Waller said that he believes it generally takes at least two starts for a gelding to show improvement.
“I reckon over three starts you will steadily see the improvement,” Waller said.
“I’m adamant about that now.
It might be different if you give them a three month spell because there is probably natural improvement there anyway, but with him it’s only been about three weeks.”
Vilanova is currently rated a $7 chance to record just his second career win; with Team Hawkes-trained Darciwood ($3.40) a clear favourite from Hunter Jack ($5) and Two Blue ($6.50).