Rob Heathcote’s special little filly Startantes...
Racing identity Francesca Cumani believes a second to Winx in the 2017 Cox Plate quinella is still “worth achieving” as she and fellow connections of the Darren Weir-trained Gailo Chop concede defeat.
There are just seven remaining rivals out to stop Chris Waller’s dual defending champion from a record-equalling third success, joining Kingston Town (1980-82), in this afternoon’s Group 1 $3 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m).
Jockey Michelle Payne lost her maiden Cox Plate ride this morning when the Jane Chapple Hyam-trained English raider Kaspersky was withdrawn due to swelling in his leg.
One of the key contenders for a placing is French import Gailo Chop, the Deportivo seven-year-old in flying form this season.
“We’re going to get a pretty hard assignment aren’t we? Essentially, we’re racing for second place hopefully but even that is worth achieving in a Cox Plate,” co-owner Cumani told The Herald Sun.
“She [Winx] would have to be as close to a good thing as you can get because her record speaks for itself and she just seems to get better.”
The OTI Racing galloper comes off a lead-up win at Caulfield from October 14 in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes (2000m), the same race Winx won before her second Cox Plate triumph by a record eight lengths in the race last spring.
Moving into barrier three, the same barrier Winx saluted from in 2016 in a 10-horse field, Gailo Chop started at $18 for the win and has eased out to $21 or $2.25 for the place.
In-form hoop Mark Zahra retains the ride on Gailo Chop having ridden him for four of his five starts back down under this year.
There are concerns however about Gailo Chop’s ability at The Valley.
The tight track is like no other in Australia and Winx suits it to a tee.
On the other hand, Gailo Chop looks more comfortable at roomier circuits and flopped in the 2015 Cox Plate finishing a distant eighth to Winx in his debut down under when still French-trained.
Cumani though is hoping for a good performance this afternoon as she prepares to cheer on the historical Winx along with everyone else.
“We always need the superstar horses to capture the public imagination,” she said.
“Everybody loves a champion whatever sport it’s in and it gives people something to latch on to.
“It’s all about the narrative in horse racing and if you can get a champion like her who almost helps to demystify the sport, it’s great for everybody … it’s just like Black Caviar.”
To back Winx to win and Gailo Chop for a place in the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate results this afternoon, head to Ladbrokes.com.au now.
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