On The Watch

Strong Pace Brings Out The Best In Winx With Another Amazing Cox Plate Victory

Seemingly invincible since winning the Sunshine Coast Guineas (Gr 3, 1600m) in May 2015, Winx’s second Cox Plate triumph was her 13th successive win and her ninth Group One victory in a 23-start career which has seen her earn $9,348,175 in prize money already.

In her three lead up races this preparation, the Warwick Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m), the George Main Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) and the Caulfield Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m), Winx demonstrated one of her great strengths – to settle off a moderate tempo and then suddenly produce brilliant speed.

But in a number of her victories, she has also shown her stamina in finishing powerfully off a strong pace – her two major triumphs the 2015 and 2016 Cox Plate being run that way.

On Saturday, a strong tempo was not expected but the French-trained Vadamos (Monsun) turned the race into a serious test when he ran along after taking the lead in the early stages.

“He ran well, he was just too keen. I couldn’t get him to switch off and I thought he did a good job to run fourth (beaten 9.8 lengths) considering,” his jockey Mark Zahra said.

Time for the 2040 metre distance was 2:06.35 with the first 1440 metres being clocked in 1:28.88 – a 200 metre rate of 12.34, excellent on the Soft5 track.

Winx then raced away, after getting the upper hand over main rival Hartnell (Authorized) nearing the home turn, to win effortlessly by eight lengths, with the final 600 metres only clocking 37.47 (12.49m rate) due to the fast early tempo.

The year prior, Winx broke the Moonee Valley course record for 2040 metres, which had stood since 1998, winning by four and three quarter lengths, after tracking a very solid pace set by the noted frontrunner The Cleaner (Savoire Vivre).

The first 1440 metres of that race, run on a Good3 track, was 1:27.34 (12.13 200m rate) with the last 600 metres in 35.64 (11.88 200m rate).

That is clearly a demonstration of the early tempo in this year’s Cox Plate, which saw the first 1440 metres run in only 1.54 seconds slower overall time, despite rain affected going, that compares well to same section in the record-breaking run the year previously on a firm track.

Trainer Chris Waller has since announced that Winx would now be spelled and be aimed at the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) at Randwick in the autumn before attempting to win her third successive Cox Plate the following spring.

And in a final word on the 2016 Cox Plate, On The Watch has observed that the runner up Hartnell’s very best efforts, while he is undoubtedly a top class performer, have appeared to be when coming of a steady mid-race tempo – solidly run races like Saturday seem to be his Achilles’ heel.

In the final race on the card, the New Zealand colt Sacred Elixir (Pour Moi) was promoted to favouritism for tomorrow’s Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) after taking out the Moonee Valley Vase (Gr 2, 2040m), a noted lead up race.

But the overall time was disappointing, adding a word of caution to an otherwise impressive win.

Sacred Elixir ran the 2040 metre distance in 2:10.94 (12.83 200m rate), moderate even allowing for the Soft5 track with the first 1440 metres being run in 1:34.14, a slow 200 metre rate of 13.07.

By comparison, the night prior at Moonee Valley, also run on a Soft5 track, the John McArdle-trained filly Smart As You Think (So You Think) scored her first win in six starts and her fourth start this preparation, with a solid staying effort in taking out the LF Sign Group Handicap (2040m).

She ran the same distance in 2:08.34, which was 2.6 seconds faster, plus Smart As You Think was timed to run her first 1440 metres in 1:31.28, a 200 metre rate of 12.67.

Coming off a stronger tempo and running on soundly, Smart As You Think showed potential for next week’s VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) for which the TAB now rates her a $13 chance with Yankee Rose (All American) their $2.00 favourite after her excellent third-placed effort in the Cox Plate.

Another three-year-old filly to take the eye on the weekend was the David Brideoake-trained Nurse Kitchen (Savabeel) in winning the Moonee Valley Fillies’ Classic (Gr 2, 1600m) on Saturday when having only her third race start.

She settled back in eighth place and after improving between runners rounding the home turn, Nurse Kitchen proved too strong over the closing stages, running the 1600 metres out strongly, to win impressively.

Nurse Kitchen, who has a good staying pedigree, looks the makings of a quality filly but connections have already indicated that they will not progress to the VRC Oaks at this early stage of her career with the ATC Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) at Randwick in the autumn as her likely target.

And last word from Saturday’s meeting goes to highlight the effort of the lightly raced colt Archives (Helmet) who put up a really solid effort to score after being trapped widest of all in a group of three leaders, while racing on the pace, to win the Telstra Phonewords Stakes (registered as Red Anchor Stakes) (Gr 3, 1200m).

Archives was timed to run his first 800 metres, from the barrier on a Soft5 track, in 46.48 (11.62 200m rate) and granted his last 400 metres was only 25.66 (12.83 200m rate), but the Godolphin-raced colt showed gameness in scoring despite his difficult early trip.