Winx Set For Cox Plate Defense

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Winx and Chris Waller | Racing and Sports

While many in the racing fraternity feel that the result of Saturday’s G1 WS Cox Plate (2040m) is a forgone conclusion, the connections of the nine other runners set to contest the A$3-million weight-for-age contest will hope that glamour mare Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}) has an off day.

Aiming to become the first horse since global traveler So You Think (NZ) (High Chaparral {Ire}) in 2009-2010 and the first mare since the almighty Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun {GB}) in 1999-2000 to take back-to-back victories in the race, Winx enters the race as the short-price favourite, having won her past 12 starts highlighted by eight wins at Group 1 level.

Interestingly, only two runners from last year’s field are lining up this year, with Hartnell (GB) (Authorized {Ire}), who finished the closest to her when beaten over 10 lengths, considered the main danger to the Chris Waller-trained mare.

A significantly different horse to 12 months ago, Godolphin’s Hartnell comes into the race off the back of three stunning race victories, by a combined margin of over 16 lengths, although the last time he and Winx clashed, it was over 1400 metres in the G2 Warwick S. where Winx was her dominant best, leaving a 3 1/2-length gap between the pair.

Hartnell’s last-start win in the G1 Turnbull S. at Flemington was poetry in motion as jockey James McDonald highlighted the 6-year-old’s class with a three-plus length victory over last week’s three-length G1 Caulfield Cup winner Jameka (Aus) (Myboycharlie {Ire}).

While Winx and Hartnell are the only two runners in single digits in the odds, Winx’s trainer Chris Waller told Racing.com the Cox Plate is not a two-horse race.

“Obviously there’s some very good horses in the race, and I wouldn’t limit it to one or two,” Waller said. “I think the whole field deserves respect–that’s what makes the Cox Plate so great. Rarely is it a race in one or two or three–it’s a race full of surprises, and full-on pressure, like any grand final should be.”

If there is to be an upset in the race outside of the top two selections, last start Group 1-winning 3-year-old filly Yankee Rose (Aus) (All American {Aus}) could be a possibility. Always indicating that the distance of the Cox Plate would be right up her alley, the dual Group 1 winner gets into the race with only 104.5 pounds, 21 pounds fewer than her nearest rivals.

The interesting runner of the race is the Andre Fabre-trained international Vadamos (Fr) (Monsun {Ger}) who will be having his first Australian start on Saturday. Impressing many with his recent work on the Moonee Valley circuit, the last-start Group 1 winner was to be ridden by Joao Moreira, before the Hong Kong Jockey Club decided against permitting the champion jockey to travel due to Typhoon Haima, leaving part-owner John Camilleri, ironically the breeder of superstar Winx, scrambling to find a replacement jockey.

While the outsider of the 10 horse field, the fairytale result would be Happy Trails (Aus) (Good Journey), with the 9-year-old lining up for his fifth consecutive run in the race. Fifth last time out behind Hartnell at Group 1 level, Happy Trails’s best result in the Cox Plate was a narrow second to 3-year-old Shamus Award (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}) in 2013 and a fast-finishing sixth to Adelaide (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), beaten three-parts of a length, in 2014.

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