Queen Elizabeth Stakes: Ray Thomas and Shayne O’Cass preview the big Group 1 race

Source: RAY THOMAS and SHAYNE O’CASS, The Daily Telegraph /

CHAMPION mare Winx appears to be going as well as ever and it seems only bad luck can beat her in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, says racing editor Ray Thomas.


Chipping Norton Stakes-Queen Elizabeth Stakes: Winx (2017), Grand Armee (2005), Rising Prince (1985), Taras Bulba (1976), Apollo Eleven (1973), Gay Icarus (1971), General Command (1968), Prince Grant (1966), Tulloch (1960), Caesar (1959), Tulloch (1958)

George Ryder Stakes-Queen Elizabeth Stakes: Winx (2017), Lonhro (2003)

Ranvet Stakes-Queen Elizabeth Stakes: Desert War (2007), Eremein (2006), Grand Armee (2005), Veandercross (1993)

Doncaster Mile-Queen Elizabeth Stakes: More Joyous (2012), Iko (1980)

Cox Plate-Queen Elizabeth Stakes (same season): Winx (2017), Our Poetic Prince (1989)


GEORGE RYDER STAKES, Rosehill Gardens, March 24

Winx made it 24 wins in succession and a world record 17th Group 1 win when she overcame a slow early tempo to unleash the fastest closing 600m sectional of the day to win the Ryder by nearly a length. Winx reeled off a 33.31s split to again demonstrate her extraordinary acceleration. Happy Clapper raced on the speed and kicked hard from the top of the straight, making Winx work to the line for a courageous second ahead of crack colt Kementari.

DONCASTER MILE, Royal Randwick, April 7

Happy Clapper, runner-up in the previous two Doncasters, scored a deserved win. A brilliant rails-hugging ride by Blake Shinn ensured Happy Clapper shouldered his 57kg to win the Doncaster by two lengths, leaving his chasing rivals with few excuses. Comin’ Through ran an outstanding race for second. He was three-wide but with is lightweight, loomed up to challenge but could not sprint with Happy Clapper. Humidor should have finished closer. He got a long way back and made a weaving run through the field late to run eighth.

 Happy scenes in Doncaster


The Queen Elizabeth has been a good race for favourites with 12 winning in the last 30 years. There have been four odds-on favourites win the race this century but none shorter than Winx at $1.12 last year. The race has produced some upset results in this period, most notably when Lonhro was beaten at $1.26 by Grand Armee in his farewell race back in 2004. Sarrera was a $51 outsider when he won in 2008.


Chris Waller, who prepares hot favourite Winx and Comin’ Through, is the only trainer represented in Saturday’s race to have won it previously. Of course, he trained the great Winx to win by more than five lengths last year, plus My Kingdom Of Fife (2011) and Reliable Man (2013). The training record belongs to the late Tommy Smith with an incredible 11 wins including Tulloch’s three victories in 1958, 1960-61. Gai Waterhouse has won the race four times including dual triumphs with Grand Armee (2004-05).


Hugh Bowman, rider of Winx, is after his third win in the race. He has scored previously on Reliable Man (2013) and Winx (2017). The other nine jockeys with rides in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes tomorrow are chasing their first win in the race. George Moore holds the riding record with six wins, one more than Damien Oliver.


Winx is coming out of barrier 10 which has produced only one Queen Elizabeth winner in the last three decades — Lucia Valentina in 2016. Until recent years, the race often only had small fields and every winner in the last there decades has drawn inside eight with the exception of Lucia Valentina and Doriemus, who started from gate 12 in 1995.


The Queen Elizabeth Stakes, first run in 1954, includes Winx (2017), More Joyous (2012), Grand Armee (2004-05), Lonhro (2003), Might And Power (1998), Doriemus (1996), Ming Dynasty (1978), Gay Icarus (1971) and Tulloch (1958, 1960-61).


Mares have managed only eight wins, including three in the last six years — Winx (2017), Luca Valentina (2016) and More Joyous (2012). Other mares to win the race are Dinky Flyer (1987), Tristarc (1986), My Blue Denim (1981), Jandell (1975) and Lowland (1969).


This will be a truly run 2000m weight-for-age race. There is genuine speed in this field including likely leader Classic Uniform with Gailo Chop settling close. OdeonComin’ ThroughAmbitious and Happy Clapper all like to race on the pace. Winx is very versatile but her rider, Hugh Bowman may elect to settle in the back half early knowing this will be run at a genuine tempo. Bowman’s other option is to go forward early and put the mare up on the speed and out of trouble. The early race tactics will be intriguing.

Gailo Chop will up near the speed in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty Images

Gailo Chop will up near the speed in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


Winx has been magnificent her both starts this autumn and seems to be going as well as ever. She romped away to win the Chipping Norton Stakes by seven lengths when resuming and although her winning margin wasn’t as big in the George Ryder Stakes, her sectional splits were stunning off a slow early tempo. She is a champion and all things being equal, only bad luck can beat her.

Happy Clapper is a rising eight-year-old but he is in the form of his life. He won the Epsom last spring and has been outstanding this autumn, winning the Canterbury Stakes and last week’s Doncaster Mile, those Group 1 triumphs either side of his Ryder second to Winx. Happy Clapper will run well again but he has met Winx seven times and finished behind every start.

Ambitious is coming back from 2400m of the Tancred Stakes to 2000m tomorrow but his effort last start was very good. This was only his second start in Australia and it is worth noting he defeated champion Kitasan Black over 2000m in Japan. The firm track will suit Ambitious. Humidor didn’t have a lot of galloping room in the Doncaster Mile and was doing his best work on the line. He is back out to his right distance on Saturday and he did give Winx a fright in the Cox Plate last spring.

Gailo Chop is a 2000m weight-for-age specialist and he has been racing consistently this autumn. Comin’ Through was very brave in the Doncaster Mile last but has to carry 7.5kg more tomorrow. Irish raider Success Days has some solid European form but is yet to win at Group 1 level.



2. Happy Clapper

3. Ambitious

4. Humidor

Best Outsider: Ambitious ($31)



7yo gelding

34 starts; 11-9-3 — $5,945,050

Trainer: Pat Webster. Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

O’CASS SAYS: Seven — nil. That is the scorecard of Winx versus Happy Clapper clashes, all of them in the mighty mare’s favour, of course. That’s not to say that Happy Clapper has been an easy beat every time for Winx, remembering his 0.8 lengths second to her in the George Ryder Stakes. Winx had an exhibition gallop between races at Royal Randwick last Saturday, while a few hours later Happy Clapper won the Doncaster Mile. Will it be 7-1 on Saturday? Or will Winx beat the Clapper just like she did in last year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes?

Happy Clapper will back up against Winx after winning the Doncaster Mile last Saturday. Picture: AAP

Happy Clapper will back up against Winx after winning the Doncaster Mile last Saturday. Picture: AAPSource:AAP


7yo gelding

28 starts; 13-3-3 — $3,363,898

Trainer: Darren Weir. Jockey: Mark Zahra

O’CASS SAYS: We now know that this French-bred gelding is anything but tres bien at 2400m; he was pretty meek and mild in the Tancred Stakes, but back to 2000m should see him return to his best. Bear in mind that the Darren Weir-trained chestnut has won seven times (from 13 starts) at 1600m, and that is from a career total of 13 wins. The last two times he has raced over 2000m he scored a thumping win in the Ranvet Stakes which followed a close-up second in the Australian Cup.


5yo gelding

25 starts; 7-7-2 — $2,634,415

Trainer: Darren Weir. Jockey: Blake Shinn

O’CASS SAYS: The second of the Darren Weir runners in this year’s big one, Humidor in on the seven-day turnaround from his creditable eighth behind Happy Clapper in the Doncaster Mile. Humidor (who ran 19th in the Melbourne Cup) almost became a giant killer the start before that by stretching Winx to her limit on her way to a third Cox Plate. Indeed, Humidor forced Winx to run a Moonee Valley course record for the 2040m that day. Record at the trip is rock solid.

Humidor pushed Winx to the limit in thrilling finish in last year’s Cox Plate. Picture: Getty Images

Humidor pushed Winx to the limit in thrilling finish in last year’s Cox Plate. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


6yo brown or black horse

18 starts; 5-3-2 — $3,283,066

Trainer: Anthony Freedman. Jockey: Craig Williams

O’CASS SAYS: Japanese-bred son of Deep Impact, a true freak of nature. As for Ambitious, he has had two runs in Australia for new trainer Anthony Freedman, the first of which was a ninth in the Australian Cup followed by his eye-catching second to 2016 Melbourne Cup winner and Sydney Cup fancy Almandin, in the Tancred Stakes over 2400m. That was a tremendous performance given that the horse is yet to win past 2000m. That being the case, is he not better suited here? Answer: yes.


6yo grey horse

19 starts; 6-4-1 — $474,134

Trainer: Ken Condon. Jockey: Joao Moreira

O’CASS SAYS: A grey horse all the way from Ireland with champion Hong Kong jockey Joao Moreira to ride. Success Days has won six of his 19 starts as well as four seconds, including a narrow loss to last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Johannes Vermeer, and a third in some elite races in the UK. Half of his six wins have been at or around 2000m. He doesn’t have the recent form to inspire, he has run last of 10 at his past two runs. Two things though, those races were two of the best 2000m G1s in the UK and, of course, he wouldn’t be coming all the way down here for a clash with Winx if he wasn’t doing well.

Classic Uniform is likely to set the pace in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty Images

Classic Uniform is likely to set the pace in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images


5yo gelding

39 starts; 7-8-9 — $1,009,525

Trainer: Gary Moore. Jockey: Andrew Adkins

O’CASS SAYS: This Emirates Park Stud-bred gelding is trained by Gary Moore who won the 1981 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Gold River. He was also the champion trainer in Macau on countless occasions and he is a G1-winning trainer in Australia, so he has done it all. Classic Uniform is a tough galloper, one who likes to get out and make his own luck, often as the pacemaker. One would imagine that rival trainers are happy to have him in the race so it doesn’t get farcical pace-wise. He beat Happy Clapper in the Craven Plate and was third to Winx (beaten 7.5 lengths) in the Chipping Norton.


4yo gelding

14 starts; 5-2-3 — $1,173,550

Trainer: Chris Waller. Jockey: Michael Walker

O’CASS SAYS: He is a half-brother to 2016 Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Criterion and a stablemate of Winx. He is an underrated horse who has gone to a new level this campaign having been gelded at the end of his preparation. He ran a cracking third in the Apollo Stakes followed by a win in the Ajax Stakes and was two lengths second to Happy Clapper in the Doncaster Mile last Saturday. Had he remained a stallion, he would be have been worth a handful of millions, now he’s going to have to win it on the track for his connections.


4yo gelding

20 starts; 6-3-1 — $464,535

Trainer: Mat Ellerton & Simon Zahra. Jockey: Damian Lane

O’CASS SAYS: This Kiwi-bred gelding has won close to $500,000 so we are not going to lay into him, but it would be a shock of epic proportions one, if Winx gets beaten, and two, Odeon is the one to do it. He will be up there for a fair while but hard to imagine him being able to hold off the big guns.


6yo mare

34 starts; 28-3-0 — $16,563,925

Trainer: Chris Waller. Jockey: Hugh Bowman

O’CASS SAYS: The stars have aligned perfectly to make Saturday one of the big days in not just horse racing but Australian sport. It is not quite America’s Cup level stuff but we might have to wait longer than the gap between Black Caviar and Winx to see her like again. Some say she is as good as Phar Lap, well who can really know, but when you get people in the street who know nothing about racing but know all about Winx, you can see the comparison. Will she win? Probably, but wasn’t there a horse with four letters in its name ending with ‘X’ that got beaten at 1/40 on?


6yo mare

44 starts; 8-8-4 — $478,325

Trainer: Stephen McKee. Jockey: Jason Collett

O’CASS SAYS: Kiwi mare trained by Stephen McKee who knows what it’s like to train a champion mare given his association with the great Sunline. Consensus is no Sunline, but she’s a bonny mare. She has to find 6.5 lengths to beat Gailo Chop let alone the 8, 10 or 12 she might need to challenge Winx.

Originally published as Analysis: Queen Elizabeth Stakes preview