Sunday at the Sunshine Coast sees the postponed...
A bumper lineup is set for Saturday’s $5 million feature at Moonee Valley, with Tuesday’s Cox Plate barrier draw revealing mighty mare Winx will square off against a field of eight exciting hopefuls.
Before Winx can make it four-straight though, she’ll have to get past six internationals, two of which come from the Darren Weir stable. One of those includes last year’s runner-up, Humidor, while Godolphin’s talented five-year old Benbatl enters as the second-elect.
Here’s a detailed look at each runner:
1. Benbatl (3) – $9.00
This year’s Caulfield Stakes (2000m) winner kicked off a big fortnight for the Godolphin blue, as trainer Saeed Bin Suroor saw his two hopefuls salute in back-to-back weeks at Caulfield.
The lightly raced five-year old will be second-up this weekend at The Valley, but if you caught a glimpse of his last start, you’ll know he has every chance to place second behind Winx.
Jockey Pat Cosgrave is the hottest name in racing right now after capturing back-to-back Group 1 wins this month, and with another dream draw working in his favour, it’s tough to see the British raider having a bad run.
The son of Dubawi jumped from barrier one in the Stakes, and got away smoothly to stick tight against the rails for the journey. He’ll jump from barrier three on Saturday, and it was encouraging to see Benbatl find an extra gear down the straight with stablemate Blair House bearing down in his last start. Already proven over this distance, and should sit up on the pace early to establish a position late.
2. Humidor (7) – $13.00
It’s sad to think this might be the last time we see Humidor go toe-to-toe with Winx. The pair have built a great rivalry, albeit very one-sided, through their two meetings dating back to last year’s Underwood Stakes.
Humidor ran third in the Underwood this year without Winx in the field, and again finished third in the Caulfield Stakes behind Benbatl and Blair House two weeks later. The veteran six-year old has run no worse than second over the 2040m journey, but has failed to make good of some handy barrier draws (1 in the Underwood, 6 in the Stakes) in his last two starts.
After flashing home to really give Hugh Bowman a scare during last year’s Cox Plate, we already know Humidor has the turn of foot to make things interesting. So far though we’re yet to see Humidor really unleash down the straight – he finished sixth in average speed last start and fourth during the final furlong.
3. Kings Will Dream (4) – $21.00
The second of Weir’s Warrnambool trained gallopers is Kings Will Dream, who like Humidor, is rumored to have the blinkers on this Saturday as the pair tackle Winx.
The Irish import struggled with the lack of pace in the Caulfield Cup (2400m) last weekend, but the five-year old should relish being up on the speed and charging on from an inside draw on Saturday.
Stepping back down in trip, the son of Casamento is a nice place chance at pretty handy odds. His sixth place finish last week was the worst result of his 13 starts, in large part due to the wet track at Caulfield. Moonee Valley presents a few challenges, but this is definitely a horse worth featuring in your trifecta.
4. Avilius (1) – $17.00
Aside from Benbatl, Godolphin’s other chance comes in the form of Avilius, who has won four consecutive starts dating back to early August since arriving in Australia.
The five-year old has never run, let alone won at Group 1 level, but appears to be well suited to anything over a mile having won the Group 3 Bart Cummings Stakes (2500m) at Flemington two weeks ago.
Godolphin must be counting their lucky stars that Avilius has drawn gate one for the second straight race. Putting that win streak on the line is necessary for the five-year old to take another step forward, and after showing plenty of speed a fortnight ago, the lightly raced gelding is certainly destined for bigger and better things.
Jockey Glyn Schofield gets the ride once again on Saturday, and it’s likely the pair will look to find cover early to expose Avilius’ devastating turn of foot down the straight. His win the Bart Cummings came out of nowhere after running the fastest 400-200m sectional in a time of 11.54 seconds. It’ll take more than that to challenge Winx, but again, this is another great place chance.
5. D’argento (2) – $26.00
It’s safe to assume Chris Waller’s attention will be squarely on Winx this weekend, although fellow stablemate D’argento will also be looking to improve following a disappointing showing in the Caulfield Stakes last start.
Barrier 11 did the four-year old no favours, but after drawing barrier two ahead of the Cox Plate, Saturday presents as a chance for Waller to have both horses in the placings.
D’argento was the Epsom Handicap (1600m) favourite last month, falling short at the line to Hartnell by a nose. Alongside the barrier, he receives a handy 57.5kg this time out, as well as jockey Kerrin McEvoy, who is yet to win a Cox Plate.
6. winx (6) – $1.25
There’s only two ways this could go wrong: bad luck, or an emerging champion no one accounted for.
The barrier gods have been kind to Winx, who will lap up the wide draw around the final turn. It should be a welcome sign for punters who waited nervously as Hugh Bowman found himself boxed in during the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) last start, but even in those tense moments, Winx still found a way to shift through her gears and explode down the straight.
Waller’s magic mare enjoyed a final solid hitout on Tuesday morning before making the trip to the Valley to make history. Win, and it’s four straight for wonder Winx.
7. Rostropovich (8) – $26.00
Arriving on Australian soil earlier this month, Aidan O’Brien’s Irish raider comes in at the longest odds ahead of the race.
The four-year old is yet to win at Group 1 level, and there’s no tougher task than a first-up run against Winx in the Cox Plate. Rostropovich made up good ground on the outside during his last start at Group 3 level back in September, and he’ll have to do the same jumping from the widest draw of the race on Saturday. Hard to make much of a case.
8. Savvy Coup (5) – $26.00
Savvy Coup’s strong form has led her up to this point. Michael and Matthew Pitman’s four-year old mare won at Group 1 level last start over the 2040m journey, and will jump alongside Winx on Saturday.
Out of Savabeel, the Kiwi international has run no worse than fifth over 2000m after establishing herself as a strong galloper this time last year. She’s first up in Australia following a three week break, and with a bit of luck, could run second or third.
The Cox Plate has been longing for a New Zealand champion, and make no mistake, Savvy Coup is one of the most accomplished raiders in this years field.
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