Winx in perfect order for Cox Plate
TRAINER Chris Waller has ominously declared Winx to be at the peak of her form and fitness as she prepares for her Cox Plate three-peat at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Sydney's super mare looks to have the $3.5 million Cox Plate at her mercy, although Waller is guarding against complacency creeping into the Winx camp.
But Winx, the $1.15 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds, is poised to equal Kingston Town's unique Cox Plate hat-trick, join Black Caviar with a record 15th Group 1 win, and take her prizemoney to more than $15.5m, smashing the all-time earnings record of Makybe Diva who won $14.52m.
Waller watched Winx go through her final workout at Flemington on Thursday morning and said the champion mare could not be in better shape ahead of Saturday's big race.
"Before the Cox Plate last year, we said there needed to be a champion to beat her because she was as good as we could have her,'' Waller said.
"Nothing has changed going into this year's Cox Plate. Her 'semi-final' run in the Turnbull Stakes was very impressive and although it will be a stronger field (Saturday), her work, the perfect three-week gap between races, it couldn't have been better.
"That to me would suggest she is very well.
"She looks in great condition, her coat is starting to come through nicely, her blood levels are good - every check that we are looking for has been perfect.''
Winx produced arguably the best run of her career to take the Cox Plate by eight lengths last year. The field for Saturday's Cox Plate does not appear to have the depth of quality from 12 months ago and it would seem only bad luck or another unforeseen circumstance can prevent Winx from racing into history.
"With horseracing you never get too far ahead of yourself, we have all seen what can happen in horseracing and in any sport for that matter,'' Waller said.
"It was only seven days ago Australia beat New Zealand in the last round of the Bledisloe Cup and we see it (upsets) in sport every day of the week.
"With any animal or any sportsperson you are always a little cautious of what may go wrong, but we know we have got the right horse, great jockey and right race.''
Waller said Winx's Cox Plate preparation has "gone to plan" and he can't have the mare any better for Saturday's race.
"Her Tuesday morning gallop (at Moonee Valley was a nice piece of work as her main gallop was here at Flemington last Saturday,'' the trainer said. "She was equally as impressive in that workout as she was this time last year.''
Waller said Winx, now a six-year-old mare, was also at her physical peak and a stronger mare than she was on this day last year.
"Horses are like people, we mature as we get older, she is now a very strong horse carrying a bit more muscle,'' he said. "Does it really make them run faster? I don't know - potentially it could make them a little bit more explosive.
"But she did set a track record as a lighter horse as a four-year-old and won by a big margin as a five-year-old. Here she is as a six-year-old in good form and still holding together very well.''
Waller said Winx will go for a "jog around the park" on Saturday morning as a final tune-up before her historic bid at a third Cox Plate.
"This will keep the nerves away for everybody - horse, trainer, staff, because it is quite a big deal for all of us,'' the trainer said. "We understand the expectation of everybody and it is fantastic to see the Cox Plate is a sellout crowd. It really is a proud moment for our sport and for all of us who are directly involved with Winx.''
HISTORY BECKONS FOR WINX
SUPER mare Winx has the opportunity to prove she is the world's best racehorse by claiming a third consecutive million Cox Plate on Saturday.
Winx and crack European three-year-filly, Enable, winner of the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, are currently the leading filly or mare on the global Timeform rating board with 134 each, but both rate two pounds behind Cracksman and Battaash who sit on 136.
But Winx could establish herself as the world's supreme equine athlete with a commanding performance in the Cox Plate.
Form guru Gary Crispe of Racing And Sports, is the official compiler of the Australian Timeform ratings and believes Winx "can record a performance that will elevate her even further" on the world rankings.
"History beckons Winx on a number of fronts at Moonee Valley on Saturday,'' Crispe said.
"The Cox Plate has been won by many of Australia's best gallopers but in 97 renewals only one horse has managed to win the race three times - the mighty Kingston Town.
"But Winx looks set to achieve the same feat, already having pocketed the 2015 and 2016 renewals in effortless fashion.''
Winx sits on a winning streak of 21, just four behind the unbeaten Black Caviar but she should edge another win closer this weekend.
"Drawn perfectly in barrier six, regular rider High Bowman (20 wins from 21 rides) should be able to position the great mare wherever she is comfortable and then unleash her powerful acceleration approaching the home turn - much the same way as her previous two Cox Plate victories have unfolded,'' Crispe said.
"Winx comes into the race fifth run back from a spell which is the most number of runs in a campaign since her winning streak began in May of 2015. I don't think it will be an issue on Saturday but, interestingly, the only time she has raced in that state, and the last time she was beaten, was in the ATC Australian Oaks over 2400m behind Gust Of Wind at Randwick.
"But on Timeform ratings, Winx has a significant edge over her Cox Plate rivals as she comes off her highest Timeform rated performance this preparation of 133 when easily winning the Turnbull Stakes last start.''
Crispe pointed out that nine horses have completed the Turnbull Stakes - Cox Plate double, the most recent being champion mare Makybe Diva on the way to her record breaking third Melbourne Cup win in 2005.
"In another twist, if successful in her third Cox Plate, Winx will take her career earnings to $15.57 million and surpass Makybe Diva as Australia's all time highest prizemoney earner at $14.52 million,'' he said. "A third Cox Plate will give Winx 15 Group 1 wins equalling Black Caviar's modern day record.''
Crispe said the minor placings will be fought out between Humidor, Gailo Chop and Happy Clapper.
"They are all accomplished gallopers but not in the same league as Winx,'' he said. "Humidor wears blinkers in an effort to curb his manners however that alone is unlikely to result in a dramatic turnaround from his Winx drubbing in the Turnbull Stakes.
"But Humidor is coming off a fair effort in last Saturday's Caulfield Cup where he had excuses in that race and as a Timeform rated 126 galloper, he should run well. Likely leader Gailo Chop is very honest and was strong in the Caulfield Stakes but does go to another level here while Happy Clapper will find the 2040m around Moonee Valley a testing assignment.''
TIMEFORM COX PLATE FINISHING ORDER
2. Humidor 5 lengths
3. Gailo Chop 5.5 lengths
4. Happy Clapper 5.7 lengths
5. Folkswood 7 lengths
6. Royal Symphony 7.5 lengths
7. Kaspersky 8 lengths
8. Seaburge 10 lengths
9. Hardham 12 lengths