Fourth Cox Plate for Winx on the cards

Source: Jason Clout

No one in Australia expects it to happen but if a horse is good enough to prevent Winx winning her fourth consecutive W.S.Cox Plate, then part-owner Debbie Kepitis will stand back and applaud.

“Sport is the great leveller and competition is what makes it so interesting, ” says Kepitis, who owns the great mare, along with Peter Tighe and Richard Treweeke.

“I will be wishing with everything I have that she does it again, of course. But if another horse wins, then we will say congratulations.”

Two overseas horses add a largely unknown factor to the Cox Plate field, Benbatl and Rostropovich. The former is from the Godolphin stable and Browell says he is the highest rated overseas horse to have raced in Australia.

Benbatl is second favourite for the Cox Plate after the very short-priced Winx. He is already a multiple Group 1 winner overseas and looms as a strong threat to Winx, given he has already won in Australia.

He triumphed in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes to give his supporters hope he might be able to topple the local star.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor says: “When Benbatl won in Dubai in March, I knew he was going to be good.”

His horse has trained well this week and is in good form, he says.

“While we greatly respect Winx, we are happy to compete against her. That is horse racing.”

It is hard to overestimate the influence Winx has had on racing. Crowds have flocked to watch win her 28 successive victories, many in the crowd waving blue flags to cheer her on.

“The response from the public has been overwhelming, that has been one of the incredible things, ” says Kepitis.

But while her record locally is beyond belief, a query was raised this week about the standard of opposition she has faced. An English commentator even suggested Winz may be over-rated.

Kepitis says was disappointed by that, even if it may have been more racing banter than serious criticism.

 “You don’t like to hear those things. She has beaten the best horses here, so it is very hard to say she is overrated but perhaps it was just banter.”

“Maybe some northern hemisphere horses are overrated.”

Winx’s prizemoney stands at almost $20 million, the most in Australian racing history.  But Kepitis says money has never been the focus.

“Prizemoney in Australia is very lucrative, which is great. There are races overseas worth a lot of money but that has never been what it was about.”

CEO of the Moonee Valley Racing Club Michael Browell says corporate tickets sold out within 10 days of the announcement Winx would be running in her fourth Cox Plate.

“The last of the general admission tickets went recently so we are looking at a crowd of around 37,000, it is very exciting.”

Moonee Valley Racecourse – or The Valley as it is called – is set for a massive transformation. The $2 billion project will include a new grandstand, club house, track and a residential development.

The goal is to create what the MVRC says will be the best night racing venue in the world, with future Cox Plates to be run under lights when the renovations are completed.

Along with the Melbourne Cup and the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate’s prizemoney boosted substantially this year. It is worth $5 million, after being $3 million last year.

“We call it the weight for age championship of Australia and the prizemoney reflects that,” says Browell.

He says On Winx, the MVRC’s  Browell says it is impossible not to be staggered by Winx’s  achievements.

“It takes a very good horse to win a Cox Plate, ” he says.

“It takes a great horse to win two. It takes a legend to win three.

“What can you say about a horse winning four?”

For Kepitis, horse racing has been a key part of her life. Her family were involved in two of the greatest horses of recent decades in Octagonal and his son Lonhro, both of whom had amazing careers at the track and later at stud.

“We have been lucky. You can’t compare any of them because they raced at different times.

“So you just have to celebrate the success of each of them.”

Winx had a few defeats early in her career but they seem a very long time ago.

“The winning stretch began in Queensland and the rest is well-documented,” says Kepitis.

“It is just amazing to think she is a live chance in a fourth consecutive Cox Plate, that is amazing.”