News that British wonder horse Enable will continue in training next year, coupled with Australian marvel Winx possibly heading to Royal Ascot in 2018, sets up the prospect of a showdown between the two superstar mares.
Winx carries the tag of the best turf racehorse in the world and is on the verge of a legend-making third Cox Plate victory, but it seems she still has work to do to prove herself to the world outside of Australia.
Godolphin-retained jockey James Doyle is the only person in the world to have ridden against both Winx and the recent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable. He said in an interview in England this week that, despite her winning streak, he queries the quality of racehorse Winx has been beating.
“Winx is doing a fantastic job down there but, to be fair, she can only beat what she’s up against,” Doyle said.
Doyle finished second twice on Hartnell behind Winx so saw plenty of her power and her behind, but he is doubtful whether Hartnell would be so highly regarded if he was still racing in the UK.
“Hartnell’s a Group 3 winner here – he won the Queen’s Vase – and he’s the second-best horse out there at the moment. There’s no doubt he has improved for going Down Under.
“I suppose you could say Winx beat Highland Reel quite far in the Cox Plate a couple of years ago but, whether or not he seemed to run below par, I just question the ability of the horses she’s beaten compared to Enable.
“Enable’s beaten all our top-flight mile-and-a-quarter and mile-and-a-half horses.”
Doyle was famously flown into Australia as a replacement late last year for James McDonald shortly before he was disqualified for 18 months after being found guilty of having an illegal bet.
Despite his frank assessment of which mare is the best in the world, Doyle, who rode in Australia for four months before returning home in April, counts himself a Winx fan.
“She’s a pretty remarkable racehorse to be fair,” Doyle said. “She has all the attributes of a top-class performer and she seems to be able to win no matter what the conditions are.
“Whether it’s soft ground, firm ground or whether she’s dropped in or sat in the middle or up handy so she’s a pretty remarkable racehorse.
“A couple of times on Hartnell I tried to really stretch the race out, you know, commit Hartnell for home around the three-furlong mark just to really get her stretching, but she seems to find another gear when all the others are struggling.”
But asked which horse he would choose to ride if a clash of the two super mares at Royal Ascot next June was to come to fruition, Doyle said: “I would have to say Enable. I think she’s got better with each run.
“(They are) very similar to be fair. Enable looks a very push-button ride and she seems to be very versatile ground-wise and she keeps on improving. It was a pretty solid performance in the Arc.”
Doyle said, however, that if Winx was to race at Royal Ascot he expected she could perform to her best under English racing conditions.
“I think it would suit her a bit better to be honest because our races are run at a truer tempo and she does seem to travel into her races smoothly,” he said.
“I think if they did go a stronger gallop – like we do tend to do here – I think that would play to her strengths a bit better.” – racing.com