Chris Waller’s wonder mare Winx put the writing on the wall for her highly-anticipated Cox Plate title defence in a fortnight outclassing Black Heart Bart to win the Ladbrokes Stakes 2016 at Caulfield.
Continuing her Black Caviar-like winning streak to make it 12 on the trot, the daughter of Street Cry didn’t fall to the Kingston Town curse in her first look at the Caulfield track in the $500,000 Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes (2000m).
Champion hoop Hugh Bowman admitted Australia’s best racehorse wasn’t 100% comfortable around that Caulfield turn, but the Ladbrokes Stakes result was never in doubt, Winx posting her eighth Group 1 victory and taking her career earnings up over $7.45 million.
“She got a little uncomfortable around the corner,” Bowman, who has ridden Winx for her eight latest wins, said post-race.
“She swapped legs as we went around the corner. She was looking for her Sydney leg.
“It got a little awkward for me and her for a moment, but I just had to keep her balanced around the corner.”
As the markets suggested, Winx ($1.24) came from second in running to run down the Darren Weir-trained Black Heart Bart ($4.80) and win by two lengths, while the Lindsay Park-trained He Or She ($26) battled on for third to round out the three-horse race.
In her first Melbourne run of the season, Winx and Bowman settled into second after the trio jumped as one from the gates and last start Underwood Stakes winner Black Heart Bart edged to the early lead.
They ran a very moderate tempo that looked more like a track gallop than a Caulfield Guineas Day Group 1 race.
Jockey Brad Rawiller on Black Heart Bart was trying to control proceedings, but Winx was stalking him in second waiting to wind-up once they got up over the hill.
Bowman was happy to idle along about two lengths off the front-runner, He or She on the rails third in running with Craig Williams aboard.
It was a canter at the top of the hill and a leisurely tempo as they approached the 1200m.
Knowing he was on a superior accelerator and the fastest horse over the distance, Bowman was biding his time as Rawiller started to wind up the pace at the 600m.
Winx went comfortably with Black Heart Bart, while the Underwood Stakes runner-up He Or She was niggled to go with the top two.
Around the turn Winx idled up on the outside of Black Heart Bart, the duo swinging wide and Bowman working to keep his mare balanced.
On the straight it was all Winx as she moved up to take over the running, six-year-old Black Heart Bart trying his best to go with her.
At the 100m she got her neck in front and drew away as she’d been tipped to do, blowing away Black Heart Bart by the comfortable margin in the perfect $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate tune-up.
It looks all systems go for her to go back-to-back in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 22, the number one seed proving too good for Black Heart Bart who was overwhelmed late.
Everything went to script for Winx who really looked to have Black Heart Bart covered from the 1000m, but Bowman saving her until the end.
He Or She boxed on okay, but was outclassed without being disgraced.
“It was an interesting race,” Bowman said post-win.
“There wasn’t much early pace, but there was enough I could just follow Brad.
“He built the speed from about the 12 – 11 hundred mark, which suited me and allowed my mare to get into a nice rhythm.
“I have healthy respect for my opposition today.
“Bring on the Cox Plate now in two weeks’ time.”
Waller admitted his pre-race nerves were still checked as the cult-like status surrounding Winx continues to build, but that she was a great story for the race fans to follow.
“It’s very hard to explain it,” he said.
“The intensity builds with a superstar horse and the expectations are there for her to win.
“I just think it’s great for racing. It’s a privilege to be involved and to race a horse like Winx takes it to a whole new level.
“I wanted her to win and that’s the only thing I was thinking about.”
Waller’s confidence around a second Cox Plate success are also high as Winx had such an easy run in the Ladbrokes Stakes.
“She’ll only do what she has to,” he said.
“She’ll be ready to step up in two weeks’ time.
“I’m very proud to say the least.
“Bring on the rest of the world and in the Cox Plate it’s great to have Hartnell there.”
Weir confirmed plans to continue onto a second Winx showdown in the Cox Plate with Black Heart Bart who will be chasing second at best in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
“He wasn’t good enough today,” Weir said.
“Obviously the winner was very impressive.
“It was a great race.
“It’s good prize money for placings [in the Cox Plate].
“We won’t be changing plans.”
2016 Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes Finishing Order
Caulfield Race 6 – 08/10/2016
|1||3||WINX||Chris Waller||Hugh Bowman||–||3||57kg||$1.24F|
|2||1||BLACK HEART BART||Darren Weir||Brad Rawiller||2L||1||59kg||$4.80|
|3||2||HE OR SHE||David & B Hayes & T Dabernig||Craig Williams||6L||2||59kg||$21|