Ascot cautiously optimistic Winx will come with Queen Anne the target

Source: STUART RILEY, Racing Post /

Nick Smith remains cautiously optimistic Australian wondermare Winx will visit the royal meeting this summer, with Ascot’s director of racing revealing a number of key decisions have now been made regarding her potential race programme.

Smith, along with Goodwood’s Adam Waterworth and York’s William Derby, visited the Winx team in Australia as part of a world recruiting tour that also took them via Japan. And, despite trainer Chris Waller being yet to fully commit to the journey halfway around the world, should the winner of her last 23 starts make the trip Smith now knows she will not take in a European prep but rather head straight to the Queen Anne.

Winx looked every inch her old, swaggering self when running away with the Chipping Norton by seven lengths on Saturday and Smith said: “She did everything she needed to do. Chris Waller’s said she needs to be winning like that to justify getting on the plane. Any chinks in her armour and they won’t take any chances, that’s been made very clear, but if she comes through the George Ryder in that sort of form you would hope the decision would be positive, but a decision will not be made until then.

 “I suppose you could say we’re cautiously optimistic. They have settled on the Queen Anne if they are going to come. They want to run in the Queen Elizabeth II in Sydney, which is early May, so that would suit the programme. Everything they are doing is true to what Chris said last year in that she will be given a light campaign with travelling in the forefront of their mind to give her every chance if they decide to come.

“I think it appeals to demonstrate her on the world stage, but equally the races at home are of higher value and it’s a safer option. There’s the potential of a fourth Cox Plate at the end of the year for her, which must be a serious carrot for them, but then so is Royal Ascot – we’ve been in the mix for well over a year.”

On the potential of a prolonged European campaign, Smith added: “They have decided what they will do for her prep, they need to decide if they will come, but if they do they have said it will be the Queen Anne and they will make a decision on any other races after Ascot, but they want to keep their options open.”

And the case Smith and his team have put to the Winx camp is a convincing one: “The things we were talking to them about are the fact that, with all due respect to the milers turning four, there is no 125 horse, there’s no Ribchester or Barney Roy. We talked about the track and what kind of condition they can expect it to be in on the first day. You don’t start a five-day meeting on firm ground, you have to be sensible, and they know we will prepare the ground with five days in mind.

“Given her best form is on softer ground, and she was was perhaps not at her best in very quick ground in the last Cox Plate, they can have some confidence the ground will be more to her liking – and if it rains they will be very happy.”

 But Winx is not the only iron in the fire. Smith revealed that were she not to come Mark Casse’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner World Approval could be tempted: “They missed Dubai, which puts us on the radar. If Winx is running would he travel? It would be quite ambitious, but if she doesn’t we will certainly be making overtures and it would be great to have them both,” while Australian sprinting sensation and Everest winner Redzel “is probably a 2019 project.”

He added: “We face a slight complication in these days of the Everest. When you put down A$600,000 in entry fees you are naturally inclined to protect that investment. It makes it tricky for us to promote our sprints to them in the same way, he might be unlikely for this year but it is a strong possibility for next year.”

Smith also revealed Redkirk Warrior, who won the Lightning Stakes, could be in line for the Diamond Jubilee, while Group 1 Surround Stakes winner Shoals was another seriously consider coming over along with a whole host of other possibles.

 Smith also revealed their were positive signs from the connections of Japan Cup winner Cheval Grand, who could be in line for the King George, while Frankel’s first Group 1 winner Soul Stirring is under consideration for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Smith expects Lady Aurelia to make a third trip to the royal meeting for the King’s Stand and hinted that Wesley Ward’s success with two-year-olds at the meeting has caused other trainers in the States to look at those races more closely. “There is definite interest in our two-year-old programme over there, Todd Pletcher’s very much got his eye on it,” Smith added.