Sydney – The countdown to Winx’s attempt at a record fourth Cox Plate stepped up a beat this week when it was announced that the mighty mare officially has 134 rivals for the title some 10 weeks before the A$5-million race.
Among the entries for the 27 October Cox Plate is UK-trained Poet’s Word – the highest-rated horse in Europe after Sir Michael Stoute’s galloper recently added the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes to a Royal Ascot Group 1 victory.
In a year in which Australia’s Spring Racing Carnival celebrates 25 years of international competition, it is fitting that no fewer than 26 overseas raiders have been nominated for one of the carnival’s showpiece events – a whopping increase of 11 on last year’s figure.
Multiple Group 1 winner Saxon Warrior is one of a record 14 nominees trained by legendary Irish horseman Aidan O’Brien, who has also entered a further five horses that have won at the highest level in Lancaster Bomber, Deauville, Hydrangea, Rhododendron and Happily.
Godolphin’s multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl, trained in the UAE by Saeed bin Suroor, has accepted the Moonee Valley Racing Club’s invitation to contest their feature race.
Other notable international nominees include Japanese star Neorealism, high-class Godolphin stablemates Blair House, Emotionless and Folkswood, as well as Irish Derby winner Latrobe, who is owned by Lloyd Williams and trained by Joseph O’Brien – the same connections who took out last year’s Melbourne Cup with Rekindling.
Super mare Winx ensured her 18 August return to racing in the Winx Stakes will be her most anticipated race ever after she followed up her strong exhibition gallop last Saturday with a breath-taking trial at Rosehill on Tuesday.
“I would suggest that’s as good as she’s ever trialled,” jockey Hugh Bowman told a press conference after the outing.
“I was very impressed with her,” he said. “I asked her to do a little bit more than I did in the first trial.
“She was more relaxed this morning than she was in her first trial and I think that was a direct result of going to the races and having an exhibition gallop on Saturday.
“For me, it was a good step in the right direction. Some of that nervous energy has left her body and she’s ready to go to the races now.
“She felt as good as she looked. I did ask her to use herself and the response I got was very encouraging.”
Winx will break Black Caviar’s record of 25 straight wins if she can win the race named after her at Randwick and few would doubt that would be the case after she cruised into third place over 1000m behind Queen Of The Turf winner Alizee and the Victoria Derby winner Ace High.
The one slight chink in Winx’s remarkable armour is her barrier manners and again Bowman reported that she wasn’t perfectly away again.
“She was a little bit bouncy in the stalls. I put her in a little earlier this morning because I just wanted to make sure she was standing there because if she draws in for her first run she’ll be one of the first ones in the gates.
“We went in last at her first trial but I wanted to put her in and make her stand for a little while, which she did well, but she just bobbed up as they opened.
“It’s not what I want to happen on race day but it doesn’t concern me because it is not out of character.”
Trainer Chris Waller was also delighted. “Personally I couldn’t be any happier with this morning’s trial and she’s bang on target for two weeks’ time,” Waller said.
Winx’s stablemate D’Argento also cruised to the post with the Rosehill Guineas winner nosing out the eight-year-old Hartnell, who looked as though he, too, had plenty to give on the line. – racingpost.com