Bob Hawke was nonplussed. He’d just gotten off a typically eloquent speech in front of a claque of media, and no-one had a question for him.
Winx might not be racing this Saturday, but the heir to her throne as Australia’s best racehorse will be.
When the Chris Waller-trained The Autumn Sun wins the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) at 4.20pm he will confirm his status as the second-best horse in the land.
The stablemate of Winx is sure to take the Queen’s sceptre from Winx when she retires next month.
But for how long?
As we know, the three-year-old is a colt and the best colts don’t race for very long when they are winning machines.
To date, The Autumn Sun has raced seven times for six wins and a third.
A drifter in the betting the day he failed to reel in Tarka at Rosehill in September, it was far from a disgraceful outing.
I suspect he’ll head overseas this year for a tilt at an English feature race to boost his fee at the breeding barn.
Waller, who barely entertained the idea of sending Winx abroad, also hinted at the fact during a press conference earlier this week.
“If anything, I’ve got a point to prove to people — to show he’s sharper than what people think,” Waller said.
“He’s just like Winx. You put him in a high-pressure race over 1200m, he’ll be delivering. He’s got that much speed and it’s sitting there waiting to be unleashed under pressure.
“Being a laid-back horse, you’re not going to see it until the pressure goes on.
“If he was to go overseas, I’d be just as keen on a Diamond Jubilee (1200m) as I would a Queen Anne (1600m) because of that reason.”
I would dearly love to see The Autumn Sun head to the UK and put his rivals away. It would not only boost his credentials, but it would also boost those of Winx.
If they think our middle distance races are weak, this would give them a wake-up call.
Because you can’t bet on The Autumn Sun (well you can, but $1.50 is not something I can tip), here are four other races to feast on this Saturday.
Just like I did in 2018, I’ll be keeping a running tally on results each week. Good luck.
Track rated Good 4 at time of writing. Rail in true position.
Race 2 – 1.10pm Listed Fireball Stakes (1100m)
This three-year-old race looks tough to determine on paper as there are a number of progressive horses lining up and some with a lot more race experience than others.
To my eye, there looks to be a ton of speed on paper and that bodes well for my speculative selection Trope, who won on debut last month and should be getting back and running on from a wide barrier.
He might not be the classiest runner, but his first-start win was impressive enough and if they go hard up front he could be the one coming from the clouds. At double-figure odds, he’s worth an each-way play.
Suggested bet: Trope (9) each-way.
Race 6 – 3.35pm Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m)
A small field of eight is lining up in this $500,000 race but don’t let the field size fool you. This is full of quality.
Realistically, there are five winning hopes as I’m ruling a line through Fell Swoop, Prompt Response and Cool Passion.
Favourite Trapeze Artist is second-up and has never won second-up in four attempts. That doesn’t mean he won’t win on Saturday, but it’s a big enough knock to put me off.
I think the two best prospects in the race at Pierata and Brutal.
Pierata loves it at Randwick with three wins and two seconds from six runs at the track. The only time he failed at Randwick was in the Epsom and I’m not convinced he’s a miler. Even that day he was only beaten by three lengths.
I think Pierata will be very hard to beat and is worth backing. Perhaps have a saver on Brutal.
Suggested bet: Pierata (2) to win.
Track rated Good 4 at time of writing. Rail out 4m entire circuit.
Race 6 – 3.15pm Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m)
Normally I would suggest that you’re a fool to be betting in a race like this. It looks impossible to have any confidence about any runner in this 23-horse field.
For what it’s worth, I think favourite Osborne Bulls is the horse to beat, but that doesn’t mean he’ll win.
I’m looking for a value runner and a horse that might appreciate the pressure of the six-furlong event.
That horse is Zousain, who is about $16 at the moment and that looks a huge price for a horse of his talent.
He was grossly disappointing last time out when beaten as a long odds-on favourite, but he also had excuses. It was a small field and he over-raced with the lack of speed.
Zousain will get his chance on Saturday and I think he’s the best value in the race with just 51kg on his back.
Suggested bet: Zousain (21) each-way.
Race 8 – 4.35pm Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m)
Based on recent events, Avilius just wins this race. The Godolphin runner has an excellent record of 18:8-1-2 and has won his two races this prep in nice style.
Since arriving in Australia last winter, he hasn’t put a hoof wrong. He was a credible fourth in the Cox Plate behind Winx, he had excuses in the Melbourne Cup and has won every other race Down Under (six in total).
He should be just winning on Saturday.
The question is who is going to be running second and third? Lloyd Williams has three runners engaged and they all look decent place prospects.
Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling could be the one in what would be just his second start in Australia.
Suggested bet: Avilius (7) to win.