Cummings holds the aces in grand finale
JAMES Cummings is poised to put an exclamation mark on his lucrative Queensland carnival after Pohutukawa scraped into the Tatt's Tiara field, giving Godolphin the three top chances in betting.
Pohutukawa secured the 18th and final spot in the field at the expense of Queensland filly Baccarat Baby, who was relegated to first emergency when acceptors closed on Wednesday.
"Dropping back to 1400m and the expected strong pace should be ideal for her powerful finish," Cummings said of Pohutukawa.
"It's no secret the high opinion the stable has of the Medaglia d'Oro filly and a Group 1 victory is well within her scope."
Savatiano - who drew barrier 15 but will jump from 13 if the emergencies don't get a run - is equal $6 favourite with Pohutukawa, while Multaja - gate 13 but will jump from 10 - was backed from $9.50 to $8 with Ladbrokes after the draw, underlining the powerful Godolphin hand.
Nacim Dilmi, who has overseen the Cummings team in Queensland this winter and nominated Trekking as the clear stable pick before his win in the Stradbroke, ranked Pohutukawa the stable's No.1 Tiara seed after Tuesday's trackwork.
Dilmi rode Savatiano in a gallop with Pohutukawa, who was ridden by Blake Shinn.
"(Tuesday's) gallop was very impressive," he said. "Pohutukawa won the gallop by a head and she was just cruising. Blake was very impressed with her."
Savatiano is coming off close to a career-best last start and just has to stretch that brilliance to 1400m on Saturday. Dilmi said she has the speed to offset the wide gate and put herself in the first half dozen for Tommy Berry.
Multaja is the Godolphin wildcard, stepping to 1400m for the first time after a scintillating Doomben 1200m win last time out.
"James was in two minds at the beginning of the prep whether she was just a sprinter but the way she won last start it gave all indications she will run it," Dilmi said.
Cummings has trained seven stakes winners since the carnival started in April.
In addition to the Tiara, he has other feature race chances in Kordia (2yo Listed), Duca Valentinois (1800m Listed) and Isuarian and Intuition (Healy Stakes, Group 3).
His nearest pursuers by stakes wins at the carnival are Peter and Paul Snowden and Chris Waller, who each have five wins. Ciaron Maher and David Eustace have four, with Tony Gollan and Kris Lees next on three each.
■ Star WA filly Arcadia Queen is the latest horse into the Everest, having secured the slot held by the Star Casino.
An English lesson on bush rivals
Hannah English is well placed to assess her rivals going into Saturday's Battle of the Bush final, having partnered seven of the runners at some stage during their careers.
In the end, English will partner Machu Picchu for Nanango trainer Brian Laherty.
Machu Picchu earned her place in the final at Eagle Farm by winning the Warwick qualifier two starts back. Laherty had to run the mare twice in five days at the back end of April to make her eligible for the series and since then she's been flying.
"She's racing with a lot of confidence," English said. "She's won three of her five starts this prep. I ride her every day, she's feeling extremely well."
Machu Picchu is on the second line of betting at $7.50 for the $125,000 final, with Blake Shinn's mount Deadly Choices the new $5.50 favourite.
Dalby trainer David Reynolds will be happy to earn another cheque with his prolific placegetter Music Scene ($12).
The six-year-old earned his place in the final after winning at Goondiwindi this month.
It was his seventh win to go alongside the 28 minor placings he's run in his 68-start career, of which 19 have been seconds.
"He's our Tom Melbourne," Reynolds said after Wednesday's barrier draw. "In the bush, it's about earning a cheque when they go around otherwise it can get tough. He's very honest.''
Reynolds' wife Leeanne McCoy will partner the horse for the 51st time in Saturday's final.