Winx could be about to put her stunning record on the line in the greatest race of them all, the Emirates-sponsored Melbourne Cup, later this year. Chris Waller’s outstanding mare has won 13 times in 19 starts and, having grabbed Cox Plate glory last season, she is being tuned-up for a potential bid to win ‘the race that stops a nation’ on the first Tuesday in November.
New South Wales trainer Chris Waller has an enviable record, having been crowned premier trainer in Sydney on five consecutive occasions, but to date the Melbourne Cup has eluded him. The doubters will ask whether or not Winx has the required stamina to excel around Flemington on Melbourne Cup day but if Waller elects to line-up, then his judgement must be taken into account. Currently trading at 13.00 in the Melbourne Cup win market with bookmakers, could Winx be the ante-post value to run away with Australia’s iconic centrepiece?
Victory in the Cox Plate back in October was not just a breakthrough moment for Winx, but also a defining stop in the career for her trainer. Prior to Winx winning in record time at Moonee Valley, Waller had failed to land any of Australia’s four ‘major races’. Showing her spell-binding turn of foot under stable jockey Hugh Bowman, Winx readily put that ghost to rest.
In doing so, Winx was rubber-stamping the pre-race suggestions from Waller that she could go and prove herself to be a superstar. After that win, the biggest in her career to date, Winx was given a 12-week spell by Waller before returning to action in January.
A couple of pipe-openers at sprint distances moved her towards top gear and – once stepped back up in trip – she duly showed her class with a four-race winning sequence from mid-February into April. The most pleasing of those wins came at Royal Randwick where she again used her speed to accelerate away from rivals and win the Group 1 Doncaster Mile despite conceding weight to all bar two of her 14 rivals in the prestigious handicap.
In the wake of that success, speculation has intensified that Waller will take aim at the Melbourne Cup later in the year, enough to lead to Winx being the market leader for the $6m contest. The issue of stamina for the big race is, in truth, one that is not likely to be answered until the moment Winx bursts into the Flemington home straight. As she develops and grows however, there is plenty confidence to be taken from her three most recent starts at trips beyond 1600m.
They have come in the ATC Oaks, the Queensland Oaks and latterly the Cox Plate. Form figures 2-1-1 coupled with the manner in which she finished her race off at Moonee Valley will give Waller and Winx’s ever-growing band of followers plenty of optimism that she can stay the Cup trip.
Given her undoubted talents, connections will be eager to see Winx take a run at the Cup, a year on from one of the greatest upsets in Melbourne Cup history when rank outsider Prince of Penzance was steered to victory by Michelle Payne – the first female rider to win Australia’s greatest race.
Mullins’ Max returns
Waller has plenty of time on his side in order to get his name on the Melbourne Cup roll of honour but, like the other great races around the world – the Grand National, Kentucky Derby et al – he will be aware that the chance to win comes but once a year. Far less comes the chance to have a mare of such outstanding potential ready to line-up in the race.
The opposition to Winx and any attempt to land the Melbourne Cup is likely to be headed by last year’s bridesmaid, Max Dynamite. Trained by Irishman Willie Mullins and ridden last November by the evergreen Frankie Dettori, Max Dynamite was deemed by plenty of shrewd judges to have been unlucky in running as he tried to cut through traffic and pick up Price of Penzance in the home straight. Mullins has already pin-pointed a return to Flemington in November as one of his key targets with Max Dynamite in 2016.
Japanese sensation Fame Game was the big-race favourite in 2015 but managed only to finish in midfield. A year on, he too could be back at Flemington look to put the record straight.
There is sure to be a stellar line-up when the gates burst open for the ‘race that stops a nation’ and there will be plenty of excitement should the increasingly popular Winx be amongst them. Then she will really have the chance to cement her trainer’s belief that she can become a superstar in her own right.