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The really strong pace in W S Cox Plate was a surprising feature of the $5m race

Ken Boman | 02.11.2018

An examination of sectional times from Saturday’s Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) revealed that the $5 million race was run at a surprisingly strong tempo.

With a final field of eight, the race was anticipated to be run at a steady to reasonable pace at best, but that proved far from the case.

The overall time of 2:03.47 was only 0.53 seconds outside of Winx’s (Street Cry) track record of 2:02.94 established in her eight-length 2017 Cox Plate victory.

The pace was set by D’Argento (So You Think) and maintained at a solid tempo when he was pressured by Rostropovich (Frankel) – that pair clocking a fast 1600 metre mid-race section (from the 2000m to the 400m) in 1:35.21.

Unsurprisingly, they subsequently finished sixth and fifth, respectively.

Benbatl (Dubawi), who had raced just off that pair, then took the lead as Winx was putting in her bid after racing back in fifth spot.

The champion mare then showed her class yet again, Winx drawing clear over the final stages to score decisively by two lengths with her Godolphin-raced rival Benbatl fighting on well for second.

She was suited by the quick tempo, but irrespective of how the race was run it would be hard to imagine that anything would have stopped the seemingly unbeatable champion.

It was Winx’s 29th successive win – a winning sequence than began in May 2015 – and her 22nd Group 1 victory that took her prize money to $22,934,925.

Winx seems to win if the races are run fast or slow, or in firm or rain-affected going – Saturday’s triumph being a record fourth Cox Plate in a row – a record that will probably never be bettered.

For the record, Winx clocked individually, ran her first 1000 metres (from the 2000m point) in a very solid 60.05 with her final 1000 metres in 59.07 for a brilliant 2000 metre time of 1:59.12.

Meanwhile, the runner up Benbatl, winner of the Caulfield Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) at his prior start, also clocked a sub-two minute 2000 metres, being timed to run that distance in 1:59.48.

Benbatl is now to be spelled while another Godolphin-raced runner Avilius (Pivotal) acquitted himself well, advancing in class, battling on nicely for fourth, albeit beaten almost eight lengths, clocking a very good final 1000 metres in 59.92.

Avilius now heads to Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m), dropping from 59 kilograms on Saturday to 54.5 kilograms in the Cup.

Also noteworthy was Rostropovich’s mid-race 1200 metre sectional time of 1:10.51 (from the 1600m to the 400m) before finishing fifth at his first Australian start.

Runner up in the Irish Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f) in June, Rostropovich drops from 56 kilograms under the weight-for-age conditions to 51 kilograms in the Melbourne Cup where he appears to hold sound claims.

Another race to produce surprisingly quick times on Saturday was the Moonee Valley Gold Cup (Gr 2, 2500m) where Ventura Storm (Zoffany) tracked a solid tempo before winning in course record time of 2:34.37 (12.34 200m rate).

The pace was set by the West Australian-trained Trap For Fools (Zoffany), a noted front-runner and he did well in fighting back for second, beaten a long neck after clocking 2:01.73 for his 2000 metres (from the 2400m to the 400m).

After placings at both Group 1 and Group 2 level, it was Ventura Storm’s first Australian win, at his 17th start, since he commenced racing in this country in May 2017 and the quick times suggest that he may now continue in a winning vein.

The other feature race to produce surprisingly quick mid-race sectionals was the Moonee Valley Vase (Gr 2, 2040m) for three-year-olds, taken out by the Robbie Laing-trained colt Stars Of Carrum (Fiorente).

He settled back in ninth place, tracking a solid tempo that saw the leaders clock 59.02 for the 1000 metres (from the 2000m to the 1000m) before the colt ran on resolutely to score a last stride win, appreciating the step up in distance at his eighth race start.

Stars Of Carrum ran the 2040 metre journey in 2:05.80 (12.33 200m rate) and he was clocked to run his 1600 metres (from the 2000m to the 400m) in a quick 1:35.48.

It was a solid staying performance and the win sees him suddenly with prospects in Saturday’s Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) where he looks suited by a further step up in distance.

At Moonee Valley on Friday night, the Manikato Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) attracted a field of high class sprinters, which resulted in a very fast early pace before the Japanese-bred import Brave Smash (Tosen Phantom) came with a well-judged bid under Hugh Bowman to score in a time of 1:09.36.

An important feature of the $1 million race was the hectic tempo which saw the leader Invincible Star (I Am Invincible) clock – from the barrier – 34.54 (first 600m), 45.78 (first 800m) and 57.60 for the first 1000 metres of the race.

She did well in holding on for fifth, beaten a length, while the runner up, the Aidan O’Brien-trained entire Spirit Of Valor (War Front) impressed in fighting back well despite a three wide trip, close to the pace.

The winner Brave Smash sat back off that hot tempo before coming from seventh to score by a short neck from Spirit Of Valor with Kementari (Lonhro) third after also running on well from back of the field.

Brave Smash and Kementari produced impressive closing sectionals, with the winner running his final 1000 metres in 55.92 and final 600 metres in 34.30 while Kementari clocked even faster, with his last 1000 metres in 55.77 and 33.98 for his last 600 metres.

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