IT'S BEEN A WHILE

Wednesday 12, 2018 2:00 PM By Best Bets

The Villiers Stakes is one of those rarities on the calendar — a race that retains its original name.

And the name has stuck even though few racing fans could tell you who or what the Villiers was named after.

The answer is Sir Victor Albert George Child-Villiers, seventh Earl of Jersey (1845-1915), who resigned from his post as Governor of NSW shortly before the first Villiers Stakes in 1892.

Conducted over the famous Randwick mile in all but 14 of its 126 runnings, the Villiers is unusual in more ways than one.

Remarkably for an open-age race almost 13 decades old, no horse has won it more than once — and neither has Chris Waller.

The horse who came closest to repeat success was Wedding Day. He won in 1916, then finished second in 1917 and 1918.

The drought for past winners will persist this Saturday, as 2017 hero Crack Me Up is not present.

Waller’s dry spell, however, may break.

He won the Villiers at his second attempt, when the race was run over 1400 metres in January 2008 following the equine influenza breakout. His winner was Honor in War — on a controversial protest from Takeover Target.

Since then Waller has had 16 Villiers runners for a second and two thirds. Meanwhile he’s won six Doncasters, three Epsoms, four George Mains and three Chipping Nortons over the Randwick mile.

He’s having a decent shot at Saturday’s race with three runners. As usual with Waller, the question is which to pick.

To help you narrow them down, I can report that 35 of the past 36 Villiers winners have been aged six or under, 11 of the past 18 have been last-start winners, eight of the past 10 have jumped from gate six or wider and 10 of the past 11 have had 54.5kg or less.