Like Black Caviar before her, the excitement around an upcoming raceday is palpable whenever Winx is racing. A party atmosphere is prevalent on course, and that’s what is sure to be happening on Saturday at Randwick.
Of course, a champion like Winx doesn’t go around in your standard Saturday handicap against low raters in the middle of winter, so when she is turning out it is also a signal that other quality horses are also running, and the card around her should have some highlights too.
Winx will be starting a white-hot short price favourite in the George Main Stakes on Saturday, but there are no duffers in opposition against her. Ace High is the lowest rater in the field, and he is a dual Group 1 winner coming off an outstanding run in the Chelmsford Stakes last start.
Winx won the race that bears her name first-up, but without the drama that accompanied her corresponding win last spring. She has enjoyed her runs spaced throughout her career, and the month between appearances is no issue at all.
There’s really not much left to be said about the best horse most of us have seen in our lifetime. There are no weaknesses. There are no issues. There is no opposition that can tame her.
Based on the bookies markets, the two best theoretical chances of beating Winx are her stablemate Unforgotten, a richly talented four year old mare, and the veteran Group 1 performer Le Romain from the Kris Lees yard.
Unforgotten was one of the fillies of the autumn, taking out the ATC Oaks in her grand final appearance, with the sort of performances that ear-marked her as a Cups horse in her four year old season.
She resumed with a pleasing sixth behind Winx upon resumption, and then dazzled in the Chelmsford last start with a dominant win after being held up for a large part of the straight. It was a win that suggested there will be more to come in her career, and at a higher level.
Le Romain has been a top class galloper his entire career. He’s won three Group 1 races, and been placed at the highest level another five times. Surprisingly, he has only taken on Winx once during her winning streak, where he ran second to her, albeit beaten over seven lengths on a heavy track in the George Ryder.
He won well first-up with a big weight, before racing a bit flat second time out in the Tramway two weeks ago but still running respectably. He should run well before going on to target some of the bigger mile races through the spring.
As Unforgotten is now, Egg Tart, trained by Chris Waller, wore the label of “the next Winx” after a six-run winning streak as a three year old culminated in two Group 1 Oaks victories in Adelaide and Queensland. Unfortunately for her admirers, she’s never really been able to put it all together consistently in open company, and only won one race since those heady days.
That said, her last three starts have probably been her best since those Oaks wins, and she might finally be ready to land a race like the Epsom or Toorak in the coming weeks, or could eye off one of the Sydney WFA races once Winx departs for Melbourne.
Ace High is on the Cups trail and put in an eye-catcher behind Unforgotten in the Chelmsford. He was a nose away from nailing the VRC / ATC Derby double last season, and should be taken seriously as a stayer of high regard. He won’t be a match for Winx, of course, but should be competitive against the rest.
Rounding out the field are Religify, who is honest but not a WFA horse, It’s Somewhat, who hasn’t produced his best for a while, and the evergreen Who Shot Thebarman, who will be looking for further on his way to Melbourne for the staying races in October and November.
Selection: 1.Winx 2.Unforgotten 3.Le Romain 4.Ace High
The Everest is very much the talk of the town at the moment as we edge closer to Sydney’s main event of the spring. The Shorts, over 1100m under set weights penalties conditions, has a number of slot-holders engaged, and is assured of shaping the Everest market.
Redzel, as Australia’s most consistent high level sprinter, is odds-on favourite for the Shorts, and will be looking to hold his place at the top of the market in the Everest as he looks to defend his title from last year.
Redzel was very much an easing favourite first-up in the Concorde, but he defied the drift, and his 60.5kg allotment, to win with authority. In doing so, he alerted everyone to the fact that he is still the testing material in the Australian sprinting ranks.
Fellow Everest slot-holder Invincible Star was the betting firmer in the Concorde but could only run third behind Redzel after trying to lead them all along. She’ll be better for the run, and gets her chance to turn the tables down in the weights.
English resumes her prep in the Shorts, as she has done the last two years, running fourth and fifth, beaten 1.8 lengths both times. She’s always around the mark somewhere, but it must be noted her last good track win was March 2016.
English and Redzel are old sparring partners, having met on a number of occasions, and the state of track usually dictates their results with Redzel better on top of the ground and English the superior wet track horse.
Brave Smash is the other Everest slot-holder running in the Shorts. A 1600m-2000m horse in Japan, he is a 1400m Group 1 winner in Australia, but also placed in the Everest and the Newmarket last season at 1200m.
Trainer Darren Weir is renowned for not peaking his horses early in their campaigns, preferring to gradually build their form and fitness towards a target, and then holding them at a high level from there. With that in mind, it’s doubtful he’ll be winning on Saturday, but he should be expected to close whatever gap there is between him and the winner the next time they meet.
Ball of Muscle shouldn’t be discounted as a winning threat, especially if he can dictate up on the speed. He beat Brave Smash and a hot Voodoo Lad among others at Caulfield two weeks ago, and is an outstanding 1100m horse.
The Monstar and Boss Lane are veteran eight year old sprinters that give their all for connections but can do no more than snag a top five finish at this level. Big Money and After All That are out of their depth, but will be looking to run well before targeting something easier.
Selections: 1.Redzel 2.Invincible Star 3.Ball of Muscle 4.English