Carnival of highlights as Winx, Waller and Bowman shine again
Source: CHRIS ROOTS, The Sydney Morning Herald /
The Sydney autumn carnival has had its stars, surprises and sensations and there are plenty of pointers to the future.
Winning is expected of Winx but the way she has done it during the autumn carnival suggests she is still at the peak of her powers. From the sheer contempt and dominance of the Chipping Norton Stakes first-up, where the gap was seven lengths to her rivals. To the challenge of the George Ryder Stakes, where tactics played a role until she sprinted away from Happy Clapper, a two-time group 1 winner during the carnival, and star colt Kementari.
But it was the arrogance of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes win and her clear superiority over the best horses in the land that was her crowning moment. Winx was set for a challenge on the home turn but when Hugh Bowman pushed the button at the 300-metre mark, the race was over within 100m. She left Humidor, which was trying to stalk her like in the Cox Plate, standing with sheer power and acceleration. She is the best horse of the century and comparisons with Kingston Town, Tulloch and Phar Lap are more than favourable, which would make her the best we have produced.
He is becoming like Hay List was to Black Caviar, the horse that makes it obvious how much of a champion we have. Happy Clapper came to the carnival as a seven-year-old with one group 1 win, the Epsom. He was a better horse than that and his record is starting to show that. He leaves the carnival as a Canterbury Stakes and Doncaster winner and a Randwick track record holder at 1300 metres.
Add to that three of his five group 1 runners-up cheques have come behind Winx, and a third in her Queen Elizabeth romp and you get the idea that he is a special horse. The Doncaster was the lump-in-the-throat moment of the carnival as the well-respected and loved Pat Webster finally won the big mile after more than 50 years at Randwick. He had to settle for second for the past two years but Happy Clapper would not be denied even lumping a big weight. Webster’s job with Happy Clapper is the equal of Waller’s with Winx; both are seven-year-olds which have had 35 starts, and sit at the top of the ratings for Australian horses.
The new group 1
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see Shoals after she won the Surround Stakes, but Sydney’s newest group 1 proved a great form line for the carnival. Unforgotten and Alizee, both well beaten on the first group 1 day of the carnival, came out and won at the highest level later in the carnival. Shoals has claims for the best three-year-old filly of the season as a group 1 winner in the spring, against the older horses in the Myer Classic, and again in the autumn against her fellow fillies. Anthony Freedman hopes to get her back for next month’s Robert Sangster Classic in Adelaide and perhaps a European campaign, if she can overcome an injury from a routine veterinary procedure following her Randwick win. “She is back in work but we are just taking it carefully with her and hope to get back for Adelaide,” said Freedman, who paid $2.3 million for her brother to top the Inglis Easter Sale.
There is a chance he will top the $7 million mark from the autumn group 1s alone with a trio of runners in the All Aged Stakes. He came to the carnival with Winx and an incredible three-year-old contingent, which converted into an Australian Oaks victory with Unforgotten and Rosehill Guineas winner in D’Argento. But the other group 1 with Who Shot Thebarman was special. “It is hard with Winx, she seems to take everything over, but to see him win a Sydney Cup at his fifth attempt is something that I sat down and smiled about on Saturday night,” Waller said. He continues to be the benchmark for trainers around the country and has managed Winx wonderfully.
Spectacularly falling from Performer in the Todman Stakes, Bowman missed some of the major days of the carnival, but the world’s best jockey still managed five group 1 wins from 10 rides. His partnership with Winx will endure for long after she retires. He might be on the best horse in the world but he still has to show his skill to keep her winning run intact. He has played key roles in up to five of her wins, where other jockeys might have simply been beaten. He has made the Australian Oaks his own, wining it for the past three years, and his ride on Unforgotten was perfectly judged as she ran down a very good filly in Hiyaam. He is at the top of his game and continues to clearly be the best jockey in the country and maybe the world.
There is something thrilling about horses all out at the end of a mile-and-a-half and still finding energy reserves. The Derby had it all, a nose margin and a protest, which in reality had little hope of being upheld. Levendi and Ace High provided the best Derby finish since the Octagonal-Saintly-Filante clash in 1996. They should go on to become among the top horses in the country, like Octagonal, Saintly and Filante. Levendi has had bone chips removed and could miss the spring but Ace High is being set for a Caulfield and Melbourne cups program.
It was gutsy and well deserved. Daysee Doom got her group 1 in the Coolmore Classic jumping from a wide a gate and defying her rivals from the front. It was a first group 1 for Andrew Adkins, who has ridden Daysee Doom at 17 of her 20 starts for seven wins. He paid tribute to trainer Ron Quinton, who is his former master, after the win. “She is a tough mare. It is an incredible training performance by Ron as well,” Adkins said. “Ron is like family to me, he is like my second Dad.”
Three-year-old Godolphin blues
Kementari and Alizee came to the autumn carnival with big reputations and lived up to them. Kementari showed he was the strongest three-year-old colt in the Hobartville Stakes and Randwick Guineas before not being dsigraced when third in the George Ryder Stakes, but he was a disappointment in the Doncaster. He is already in the spelling paddock and will surely come back a stronger version next spring, where he will race at weight-for-age level. Alizee took four group 1 runs to produce the explosive sprint that delivered the Flight Stakes in the spring but she was at her best in the Coolmore Legacy. She is going to be hard to place in handicaps from now on but her turn of foot should make her competitive at the highest level.
Ben Smith sort of expected In Her Time to become a group 1 winner, but El Dorado Dreaming’s victory in the Sires Produce Stakes was a surprise for the young trainer. In Her Time got her group 1 in The Galaxy and was luckless in the TJ Smith, where she gave up too much start to Trapeze Artist and Redzel. The feelgood story was home-bred El Dorado Dreaming. Last on the home turn, she came widest with an uninterrupted passage to win the group 1. “I have to pinch myself every day and horses like this make it a lot easier to get out of bed, that is for sure,” Smith said. “I didn’t expect her to win but expected her to run well. It is unbelievable really.”
Oohood has the unwanted tag of Australia’s best maiden with nearly $1 million in the bank. She came to Sydney after a third in the Blue Diamond and was an outsider in the Golden Slipper. A late charge was denied by Estijaab, which was superbly handled by Brenton Avdulla, in the Golden Slipper, and that made her the favourite for the Sires. She was held up early in the straight in the second leg of the triple crown and charged through the centre to be beaten a half head by El Dorado Dreaming. “She is a great filly and was only a couple of heads away from being the champion two-year-old,” trainer Tony McEvoy said. “You get sick of running seconds but I think we will see her back a winner next prep.”