On The Watch

A very strongly run Cox Plate sees Winx better her own track record

A very strongly run Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) resulted in Winx (Street Cry) breaking the track record in a day of achievements for the champion mare at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

The pace was set by the Darren Weir-trained Gailo Chop (Deportivo), a stablemate of the runner-up Humidor (Teofilo), the French-bred import running along at a deceptively fast tempo which saw him clock a fast first 1600 metres (from the 2000m to the 400m) in 1:34.80.

Hugh Bowman had Winx racing back in fifth place before making an early wide move on passing the 800 metres mark, obviously not wanting to risk any chance of having the great mare held up for clear running by riding more conservatively.

She then travelled deep, until taking the lead shortly after turning for home, but then had to dig deep when challenged by Humidor – a difficult horse that had been ridden patiently and skilfully by Blake Shinn prior to making a timely bid on straightening.

In a hard fought finish Winx called on all her reserves to prevail by a long neck from Humidor – that pair dominating the exciting final stages, finishing over four lengths ahead of the third-placed Folkswood (Exceed And Excel).

Time for the race was 2:02.94 (12.05 200m rate), equivalent to 2000 metres in 2:00.53 – that time narrowly bettering Winx’s own Moonee Valley record for 2040 metres of 2:02.98 set in winning her first Cox Plate in 2015.

Winx’s individual sectional times were also impressive, even if tempered by the fact that Saturday’s Moonee Valley track returned exceptionally fast times throughout the day.

Her final 2000 metres being clocked in 1:58.67, last 1600 metres in 1:33.93, last 1400 metres in 1:22.36, last 1200 metres in 1:10.56, last 1000 metres in 58.38, last 800 metres in 46.35, last 600 metres in 34.98, last 400 metres in 23.89 with her final 200 metres in 11.89.

The victory, her third successive Cox Plate, was also her 22nd successive win and her 15th at Group One level and it took Winx’s prize money to $15,627,925 earned from 26 wins and three seconds from 32 career starts.

The runner-up Humidor, a dual Group One winner, staged a career-best performance in getting so close to Winx at the finish of the famous weight-for-age race.

Returning to racing in blinkers, Humidor was handled brilliantly by Shinn who got the often wayward gelding into a comfort zone at the tail of the nine-horse field before deftly navigating to have him in a challenging position on turning for home.

The Darren Weir-trained gelding also returned fast closing sectional times, many being similar or even the same as Winx on two occasions.

Humidor’s final 2000 metres being clocked in 1:58.78, last 1600 metres in 1:33.93, last 1400 metres in 1:22.39, last 1200 metres in 1:10.65, last 1000 metres in 58.41, last 800 metres in 46.43, last 600 metres in 34.98, last 400 metres in 23.95 with her final 200 metres in 11.98.

Earlier in the programme, the Bjorn Baker-trained mare Lubiton (Snitzel) also set a Moonee Valley track record in taking out the Tesio Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m).

In a strong front-running performance, Lubiton held on well to score by just over a length in a time of 1:34.42, which bettered the record for 1600 metres set by Cabeza (Zabeel) in December 2010 of 1:34.78.

Then in the Crystal Mile (Gr 2, 1600m), the Darren Weir-trained Lucky Hussler (Husson) returned to form at his fourth run this preparation in coming off a very solid tempo to win by three lengths in the quick time of 1:34.56 – only 0.14 seconds outside of Lubiton’s newly established record.

The quick pace was due to the front-running tactics by Hugh Bowman aboard the Chris Waller-trained Religify (Choisir) who clocked a fast mid-race section of 57.37 for his 1000 metres (from the 1400m to the 400m).

The consistent and hardy Religify then fought back gamely, his effort of holding on for second being full of merit.

While another of the highlights of the Cox Plate day meeting, was the most impressive performance of the New Zealand-bred filly Aloisia (Azamour), who came off a very solid pace set by the front-running colt Cliff’s Edge (Canford Cliffs) in taking out the Moonee Valley Vase (Gr 2, 2040m) by three and a half lengths.

Time for the full journey was a really smart 2:04.24 (12.18 200m rate), equivalent to 2000 metres in 2:01.80.

Aloisia’s sectionals were also smart, being timed to run her final 2000 metres in 2:01.17, her last 1600 metres in 1:35.72, last 1000 metres in 59.16, last 800 metres in 46.98, last 600 metres in 35.26 with her final 400 metres in 24.04.

The win, her third in seven starts, saw Aloisia immediately promoted to $1.65 favouritism with CrownBet for next Thursday’s VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) at Flemington where she is now clearly the horse to beat.

While the last word has been reserved for the Toby Edmonds-trained three-year-old gelding Eptimum (Snitzel) who staged a great front-running performance earlier in the day in winning the Red Anchor Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m).

After crossing quickly to lead from barrier nine, Eptimum was challenged prior to the home turn by the well-performed Single Bullet (Not A Single Doubt) but he fought off that bid on straightening and then dashed clear before scoring by three lengths in the smart time of 1:09.98.

Eptimum really impressed on the watch.

His 200 metre breakdown (from the 1000m) being 10.90, 11.60 (400m in 22.50), 10.95 (600m in 33.45), 12.08 (800m in 45.53) with his final 200 metres in 10.96 to give Eptimum a fast final 1000 metres time of 56.49.

But a feature of the win, which deserves highlighting, was Eptimum’s very fast final 200 metres of 10.96 – rarely is 11.00 seconds broken in the final stages of a race, especially if it has been achieved off a quick tempo, as it was on this occasion.

That alone suggests that Toby Edmonds’ decision to back-up his lightly raced but talented young sprinter in tomorrow’s Coolmore Stud Stakes (registered as Ascot Vale Stakes) (Gr 1, 1200m) at Flemington may not be the mission impossible it may seem for a three-year-old progressing so quickly in class.

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