Can Winx win a 4th Cox Plate?

| June 29, 2018

Can Winx become a quadruple winner of the WS Cox Plate?

Australian eyes may be drifting towards this autumn’s fascinating renewal of the Melbourne Cup, which is due to post on November 6that Flemington Racecourse. It may be the race that stops a nation but it also catches the attention of punters across the globe with big prices and an open field attracting many casual backers.

Shrewd eyes will be preoccupied with solving an equally intriguing puzzle scheduled for little over a week earlier as the Cox Plate takes place at Moonee Valley on 27th October. It may not attract the crowds of the Melbourne spectacle, but it is no less a thrilling contest and treat for backers of international horse racing.

Winx targets four-in-a-row

A Group One open to horses aged three years old and above its roots can be traced back to 1922 when Tangalooma set the bar. Much has changed in this race, and indeed the world of sport since, and the 2018 version will see a staggering 5,000,000 Australian Dollars prize pot shared out between the best finishers.

Super mare Winx won in 2017, completing the hat-trick following success in each of the previous two runnings. Will that dominance continue with four-in-a-row? Traders certainly think so and punters taking an early interest in the ante-post markets will see the six-year-old has been marked up as an odds-on favourite with most firms. The price may be on the short side but a quick look at Oddschecker shows bookmakers are offering a number of promotions that can be used on the race to boost your returns, including Ladbrokes’ free matched bet up to $250.

Why is Winx so well respected by traders? Well, it’s not only her hat-trick; the show-stopper also brings a simply stunning record since making her track debut and was recently spotted winning a Group One treble in the Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick in March, George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill the same month and Queen Elizabeth Stakes a few weeks later, again around Randwick.

Listen carefully to the market

Looking beyond the dominance of Winx for a minute and backing the shortest price doesn’t necessarily guarantee a profit on the Cox Plate with the market leader winning 40% of the time. That seems to fall into line with many of world racing’s biggest events, but followers of the trends will tell us that when the market speaks clearly, it’s well worth listening.

Jollies who have gone off at even money or less usually live up to expectations with 70% of them doing the business so far. Winx scored at 2/11 in 2017, 4/5 the year before and in 2015 backers were paid out at 18/5. She again carries the support of those on the trading floors with 4/7 working out as the most common quote at the time of asking.

That could ease to make things slightly more interesting as money comes for genuine contenders at bigger odds but it’s highly unlikely, especially if she continues to build on her form. Will the betting call this one right again? That remains to be seen but it’ll take a brave player who has their money against number four.

O’Brien has previous at this level

The last horse to win the race that wasn’t Winx was Adelaide for Aidan O’Brien. The Irishman may be a big name on this side of the sphere, but he travelled that year on the back of a bitterly disappointing effort in the Melbourne Cup. Thankfully for all concerned, Adelaide was good enough to remove the bad taste from their mouths.

The bay colt was good to backers when winning off a cracking 7/1 under the ride of Ryan Moore with the pair holding off the challenge of Fawkner and Nicholas Hall. That remains the Wexford man’s only success in this race, but he has half a chance of finally doubling up four years later with Johannes Vermeer. The four-year-old colt proudly represents the O’Brien yard and if Aidan is to send him to Moonee Valley he’ll go with confidence onside having won three and placed four times in his first 10 outings.

A product of Galileo and Inca Princess, his former glories include victory in the Group Three Willis Champions Juvenile Stakes over the Leopardstown mile, Group One Criterium International Stakes at Saint-Cloud and Curragh’s Finlay Volvo International Stakes, a 1m 2f Group Three. As well as those victories he has also posted a couple of impressive performances in defeat.

Indecision over Johannes Vermeer’s price

Second in the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown last August behind stablemate Spanish Steps – beaten ½ a length despite going off an odds-on favourite – he then found only one too good when stepping up to grab silver in the Melbourne Cup in November of 2017, held off by eventual winner Rekindling. The first three that day carried prices of 12/1, 11/1 and 14/1.

O’Brien would’ve taken heart from that run, but odds compilers aren’t exactly falling over themselves to get on the right side of the runner who’s showing bags of promise but has been suffering from a touch of seconditis of late. There’s a bit of indecision in the prices, which will make value hunters sit up and take note, with odds on Johannes Vermeer ranging from 14/1 to 25/1 in places.

If the team don’t enter into the Cox Plate, they could still make the trek to Australian soil with some bookmakers fancying a rematch in this year’s Melbourne Cup. Johannes Vermeer narrowly missed out and will be eager to gain revenge while another Rekindling win would see owner Lloyd Williams cement what would be his seventh race gong.

The pair once again going head-to-head remains a real possibility but we’re still at the mind games stage with Williams admitting to the media recently it could be ruled out by the handicappers if they are too harsh on his defending champion, thus putting an end to the challenge before it has begun. With over 7,000,000 Australian Dollars on the line to the winner, we’ll take what he says with a generous helping of salt at the present time – thanks all the same.

Humidor looking to go one better

Returning to the Cox Plate and a much more likely contender to the all-conquering Winx is Humidor, certainly if the betting is to be believed and you’ll find the South African bred six-year-old a steady second favourite in summer.

The Darren Weir-trained hopeful hasn’t gotten ahead in a couple of starts now with his last success coming at Flemington in March when winning the Group Two Blamey Stakes ahead of Cool Chap and Hellova Street. He does boast vital racecourse experience, of course, running in this race on his only previous visit in 2017, finishing second at a big price after a good showing.

Fitted with blinkers, connections expected a huge effort and they got it with their runner pushing hard for the line after being held up in the early stages. That patient ride didn’t go unnoticed by the experts but it was the finish that forced traders to take him more seriously this year after staying on at the business end and asking all the right questions of the favourite. He would’ve come on for that and you’ve got to expect a more improved version of Humidor 12 months down the line. The question is, will we see more improvement from Winx to make that?

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