Champion trainer Chris Waller is a student of horse racing history and that is why one is willing to take a punt on him setting Australia’s – and quite possibly the world’s – best galloper for next year’s Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
Waller is responsible for preparing superstar mare Winx, the five-year-old mare that has won 13 consecutive races to take her record to 17 victories from 23 starts. Waller and Winx’s connections elected to bypass this year’s Melbourne Cup but one suspects that the race that stops a nation is on their wish list because of what it means to the Australian public.
Winx’s 13-race unbeaten streak began in the 2015 Sunshine Coast Guineas in a performance that has to be seen to be believed. Winx was 17th of the 18 runners 800 metres from the winning post and she slid back to last with 400m to go before flying home, weaving through a wall of traffic, to win by one and three-quarter lengths. It was extraordinary but one has become accustomed to extraordinary Winx wins.
The Sunshine Coast Guineas is a Group Three contest and she had won two Group Two events earlier in her three-year-old campaign. As of today, Winx has won nine Group One races, five at Group Two level and one of Group Three class. Winx has won nine Group One races by a cumulative margin of 26 and three-quarter lengths, each of them by at least one and a quarter lengths. Winx has been dominant for 18 months.
Waller is protective of Winx – he scratched her from this year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes because he was worried about how she had pulled up from the Doncaster Handicap seven days earlier – so that partly explains why he did not enter her in the Melbourne Cup that Almandin ultimately won. Another reason is that Waller is chasing WS Cox Plate history with Winx and he does not want to jeopardise that.
Only the great Kingston Town has won three editions of the WS Cox Plate so Winx is one short of the 1980s legend after securing back-to-back triumphs in 2015 and 2016. Waller and Winx’s owners have gone public with their desire to set her for the 2017 WS Cox Plate but they have been coy when asked about their Melbourne Cup plans. One thinks that, if everything goes according to the script, they may have a crack at the world’s richest two-mile handicap next year.
Kingston Town won the 1980, 1981 and 1982 renewals of the WS Cox Plate before finishing second to Gurner’s Lane in 1982 Melbourne Cup. Six thoroughbreds have achieved the WS Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup double – Makybe Diva, Might And Power, Nightmarch, Phar Lap, Rising Fast and Saintly – but none of them won three editions of the WS Cox Plate as well.
Winx won this year’s WS Cox Plate by eight lengths and her jockey, Hugh Bowman, was gesturing to the crowd throughout the final furlong. One would argue that she would be well in at the weights if she had to carry 58 kilograms in next year’s Melbourne Cup and the manner of her 2015 Queensland Oaks victory suggests that she would stay the lengthy trip.
Bet365 is offering odds of +2500 about Winx winning the 2017 Melbourne Cup. One knows that the race is almost 12 months away but, if it was taking place today and Winx was the top weight, she would be no bigger than +200 in the betting.
Winx to win the 2017 Melbourne Cup