Are you ready to watch Australian super-mare Winx make history this weekend at Melbourne's Moonee Valley racecourse? If she achieves an unprecedented fourth-straight G1 Cox Plate, her legacy would arguably surpass the achievements of Zenyatta and American Pharaoh. All that stands between Winx and legendary status are Godolphin's Benbatl and local rival Humidor.
From 2015 to 2018
A victory in this year's Cox Plate, which starts at 5 p.m. Melbourne time this Saturday, Oct. 27th (2 a.m. EDT, or 11 p.m. PDT on Friday, Oct. 26th), would give the 7-year-old mare 29 straight wins.
Back in the 2015 Cox Plate, her winning time of 2:02.98 topped Might And Power's 1998 race and course record. The following year, she won by a record eight lengths over Hartnell, while last year she clocked in at 2:02.94, a new record for the Cox Plate's 1¼ mile distance.
Given her previous performances, Winx is the strong favorite to win, with 1/4 odds to make history. The last time the race was won three times in a row was by Kingston Town in 1980-1982, but no horse has ever achieved four straight wins.
A fourth victory would further elevate Winx's standing in the international racing hall of fame, arguably surpassing Zenyatta (also by Street Cry), the first mare to win the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2009, and American Pharaoh, who broke the 37-year Triple Crown drought spectacularly in 2015.
Extending her Cox Plate hat-trick would also see Winx classed as one the greatest Australian racehorses of all time. She's already mentioned in the same breath as such greats as Makybe Diva, who won her third Melbourne Cup in 2005, and Phar Lap, who won the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap in Tijuana, Mexico, in record time. A fourth Cox Plate would make her not just an Australian great but perhaps the greatest.
While a victory looks certain, there's a slim chance of an upset, especially considering Winx's performance in the G1 Turnbull Stakes. After trailing for most of the race, she finally delivered a nail-biting victory over Youngstar and Kings Will Dream after jockey Hugh Bowman guided her home.
The main challenger in the eight-horse field is the Godolphin British import Benbatl, who comes to Moonee Valley after a victory in the G1 Caulfield Stakes, where he set a course record of 2:00.84, and a win in the $6 million G1 Dubai Turf back in March. The bookies give the 4-year-old 15/2 odds to surprise.
The other leading challenger is Humidor, at 14/1. The Darren Weir-trained 6-year-old raced Winx to a close second in last year's Cox Plate. Although he only finished fourth the last time they met – in April's G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes – Humidor's victory in the G1 Memsie Stakes last month has races fans wondering if he'll finish what he started at Moonee Valley in 2017.
Melbourne Cup contender Avilius could also create an upset. The Godolphin gelding has had a perfect spring campaign at G3 level, moving through his last three starts without defeat, giving him 16/1 odds.
In a field of eight, Winx has landed a wide barrier, jumping from gate 6 next to Humidor, who will be out from gate 7. Avilius, D'Argento and Benbatl drew the inside rails at 1 ,2, and 3 respectively.
If Winx does make history, she will share the glory of her 22nd G1 victory with trainer Waller and main jockey Bowman. For most fans, there is no Winx without Waller and Bowman.
New Zealand-born and Sydney-based Waller has been fine-tuning his star mare's performance over the last four years and feels she's now at her peak. “She is simply in the zone,” said Waller. “I don't know what makes her tick, but she knows when the timing is right to be spot on.”
“She seems to sense when the bigger races are on, and at this time of year she is ready,” adds the trainer, whose other achievements include winning Australia's premier mile race six times and capturing the record for most Sydney metropolitan winners in a season.
Jockey Bowman, the third pillar of Team Winx, is equally confident that she'll carry the day, especially given her liking for Moonee Valley. “The way the Valley is shaped, they get into top gear a long way out, at about the 600 meters before they start turning, and it just suits her,” says the jockey often likened to America's Mike Smith.
Like Smith with Zenyatta, Bowman and Winx's signature racing style is falling to the back of the pack early in a race before finishing with a dramatic dash home, as they displayed at the recent Turnbull Stakes.
That said, the 38-year-old jockey rules out a master strategy for Moonee Valley. “I will imagine how the race might run and scenarios eventuate,” he said. “But I don't like to have too many plans on Winx or any other horse for that matter.”
With the strong chance of history being made by Winx as she competes in one of the last G1 races of her career, American racing fans won't want to miss the high emotion of this weekend's Cox Plate. TVG's Candice Hare will be broadcasting on-site at Moonee Valley on TVG. Race fans can also stream the race live and bet via ADW platforms such as TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, NYRABets, WatchandWager, HPIbet, AmWager, and BetAmerica. Free past performances and expert picks on the race is available at skyracingworld.com.
About David Haslett
A former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, David was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South Korean thoroughbred racing and Australian Harness racing content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.
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