Avilius (left) and Jaameh fought out a thrilling duel (Image: Racing Photos)
Godolphin stayer Avilius will chase a fairytale Lexus Melbourne Cup win for James Cummings after securing a place in next month's $7.5 million feature with a narrow victory in Saturday's The Bart Cummings (2500m) at Flemington.
Cummings' decision to bypass the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap (2400m) and instead chase ballot exemption for the Cup was vindicated when the son of Pivotal carried the 58.5kg topweight and out-stayed Jaameh in the final furlong of the race.
The win wasn't without controversy as jockey Glyn Schofield had to survive a protest from Jaameh's jockey Michael Walker, who unsuccessfully argued that Avilius had impeded the Lindsay Park stayer in the final 100m of the race.
While it wasn't enough to reverse the result, stewards saw enough in the incident to charge Schofield with careless riding and suspended him for 10 meetings.
An emotional Cummings said he was delighted to win the race named in honour of his legendary grandfather with a horse that has now won all four starts since arriving in Australia in April.
While there are several options for Avilius en route to the Melbourne Cup - including the $5 million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) in a fortnight - Cummings also flagged the possibility that he could line up on the first Tuesday in November without another run.
"We've been patient with the horse all along and we tend to go for the small fish when they're there but there was a whale on the horizon if we could get the (Melbourne Cup) exemption from winning this race," Cummings said.
"Andre Fabre has put his blood, sweat and tears into Avilius before he got to us, he had great form behind Cracksman over a mile-and-a-half and now we're starting to put our own polish on him.
“He outmuscled one (Jaameh) to the line, which I really thought was the one to beat, so it was a terrifically courageous performance from the horse.
"Now that he's exempt we can plot a path to the race that we feel best suits the horse and we're not chasing our tail with him.
"It's two weeks to the Caulfield Cup and I think you need to pay up by Tuesday so we've got to look at a couple of races for him or consider whether or not he might be the sort of horse that is clean-winded enough to go straight to the Melbourne Cup."
Any Melbourne Cup penalty for Avilius, who currently has 53kg and firmed into $10 favourite with BetEasy after Saturday's win, will be announced by Racing Victoria's chief handicapper Greg Carpenter on Monday.