Winx dodges Ascot, to chase fourth Cox Plate

Source: ADAM PENGILLY, The Sydney Morning Herald /

The Everest’s backers have pledged to do everything they can to add Winx’s star power to this year’s $13 million sprint, but appear to be facing a near impossible task despite Chris Waller ruling out an international campaign for the wonder mare on Wednesday.

Jubilant Moonee Valley Racing Club powerbrokers were promising Winx’s potential tilt at a fourth Cox Plate would be “like nothing we’ve ever seen” after her connections ended months of speculation about a Royal Ascot mission.

Instead, they will zero in on breaking the record she now shares with Kingston Town as the only three-time winners of Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.

It makes an appearance in the lucrative The Everest – where Waller holds one of the 12 slots – extremely remote despite the urgings of Sydney officials for the world’s best turf horse to try to win the world’s richest race on turf.

Winx’s jockey Hugh Bowman told Fairfax Media last week he had no doubt the six-year-old mare, which has won 24 races in succession, would be capable of winning The Everest if set for the race.

“We won’t give up on trying having her for The Everest,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said. “It’s the one distance she hasn’t really won at the elite level at.

Decision: Chris Waller.

Decision: Chris Waller.

“For the promotion of NSW racing there would be nothing better than her running in that, but failing that we want to keep her in Sydney as long as we can because she’s a once in a generation horse and an absolute champion. We haven’t seen the like of her in racing before. She’s just a freak.

“It won’t be through lack of trying that her rightful home in Sydney gets to see her more than anywhere else.”

Moonee Valley bosses popped the corks on several champagne bottles when news filtered through on Wednesday afternoon Waller would keep Winx at home over the southern hemisphere winter – turning down overtures to take on the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Winx’s part-owner Peter Tighe – who consulted Waller, Bowman as well as other connections Debbie Kepitis and Richard Treweeke earlier this week – phoned Moonee Valley boss Michael Browell minutes after Waller’s announcement.

“This might sound silly, but we started planning for the potential for a Winx third Cox Plate a month after she won her first,” Browell said. “We’ve had plenty of horses win two Cox Plates, but when she did what she did in the first some of the key players here knew how much potential she had.

“We had a debrief and barbecue as a celebration after last year and said, ‘it will never get any bigger than what it did on Saturday [when Winx won a third Cox Plate]’. I tell you what, if she’s still in form [a fourth Cox Plate] will be like nothing we’ve ever seen.

“Up until the news came through I personally was expecting her to head to Royal Ascot and then come back and try to chase another Cox Plate.”

Racing Victoria is expected to rubber stamp a rise in Cox Plate prize money from $3 million in May.

Winx is a near unbackable favourite to equal Black Caviar’s 25-race winning streak when she lines up in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the second day of The Championships at Randwick on April 14 at her next start.

European scouts had pitched the idea of, all being equal, Winx heading to the scene of Black Caviar’s most famous victory at Royal Ascot to surpass her record in June.

But instead she is likely to do that in Australia at her next start after the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

“Winx has nothing to prove to anyone, she is and always will be regarded as a legend of the turf and it is champions like her that make up the fabric of this great sport,” Waller said in a statement.

“As a group we have all held ambitions to travel horses internationally and it has been our dream to have a horse race in front of Her Majesty the Queen at Royal Ascot, however the decision is not about us and must be based on the best interests of Winx.

“It is our plan to continue to race her into the spring and hopefully Australia can play host to international visitors during our carnival.”

Meanwhile, Bowman was stood down during the Warwick Farm meeting on Wednesday still suffering lingering effects of concussion after a fall from Performer in the Todman Stakes earlier this month.

He passed a concussion test last week for a clearance to ride at the Golden Slipper meeting, where he notched a group 1 double on Winx (George Ryder Stakes) and D’Argento (Rosehill Guineas).