Steve Moran

Winx World’s Best Turf Performer

Where could ‘we’ take the wonderful daughter of Street Cry (Machiavellian)? Tomorrow morning we watch the US$12,000,000 Pegasus World Cup (Gr 1, 9f) at Gulfstream Park. Could that be an option next year, coming three months after her third Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) bid – if trainer Chris Waller was in any way serious with his award ceremony  ‘throwaway line’ about tackling a Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr 1, 10f) on dirt?

It’s hard to imagine she could continue to race at home for the best part of the next two years before proceeding to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup which returns to Churchill Downs, rather than on the West Coast, which further complicates the mission.

Hong Kong, of course, would seem to the be the most logical option given it’s relative proximity and a similar surface at Sha Tin to that at Moonee Valley. December this year or April the next? And I’m sure, had she ventured there last year and accounted for Japan’s powerhouse middle distance performer Maurice (Screen Hero), she’d have garnered even greater international recognition.

Does she need to travel at all? Could we bring the world to her?

It will be fascinating to see the bottom line return to investors from today’s meeting at Gulfstream Park with stakeholders sharing in the revenue from the race day, as well as getting a US$250,000 starters subsidy, to defray their US$1,000,000 investment.

If it works, you can be sure someone – somewhere else in the world – will try it.

Could it be the next evolution in Sydney’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m)? A $4,000,000, for the past three years, hasn’t been enough to lure any of the world’s best or have the race rated above the equal 70th best in the world.

Naturally, as fans, we’d love to see the mare compete elsewhere – following in the footsteps of So You Think (High Chaparral) – who won five Group One races in each hemisphere – and Sunline (Desert Sun) who won in Hong Kong after she’d won her second Cox Plate in 2000. But is just a romantic notion?

Does she need greater acclaim even if Bob Baffert conceded he didn’t know much about her until this week’s awards night. Let’s face it, the racing world is loosely divided between the USA and the rest of the planet combined.

Aside from the her official IFHA rating, she is similarly ranked by Timeform which notes: “She’s now rated a career-best 133p, with the possibility of even better to come.”

The only reminder needed of her quality is the replay of last year’s Cox Plate where she annihilated Hartnell (Authorized) who had, of course, previously thrashed the Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Jameka (Myboycharlie).

She, of course, now boasts 13 consecutive wins – including nine Group Ones – and is the perfect inspiration for all given that four wins from her first ten starts did not have her marked as a champion. She is living proof that horses can improve with age, maturity and the right handling.

The form from her 2015 Cox Plate win has, of course, been suitably enhanced by the world traveller Highland Reel (Galileo) whose extraordinary career since includes running second to Found (Galileo) in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m). And the links through Found, Vadamos (Monsun) (who contested last year’s Cox Plate) and Zarak (Dubawi) suggest to me she is entitled to be rated higher than Europe’s best middle distance turf performer Almanzor (Wootton Bassett).

She’s so good, maybe, she could perform to the same level on dirt although you’d probably need greater proof than Baffert’s comment to Waller. “He (Baffert) said to me her racing style looks like a dirt horse and being by Street Cry he’d be surprised if she wasn’t,” he said.

Enjoyed Australia day at the ever popular Balnarring picnic races which drew a huge crowd and, once again, illustrated that the picnic circuit is one of the industry’s best assets in terms of good PR and exposing the sport to a new audience. Long may they be supported.

A glance at the card, for race five, might have been disconcerting for some however. Third and fourth in the field of five were Taqneen, the $360,000 son of Lonhro (Octagonal) and Maybe Diva (Desert King); and Eclair Raider, the $100,000 son of High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells) and Dane Ripper (Danehill).

Limestone (Helmet) and Property (Starcraft) claimed, in similar time, the divisions of the Blue Diamond Previews at Caulfield on Thursday and each impressed. The form can’t be discounted given that four of the past nine Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winners had won a Preview.

Newcomers Indernile (Street Boss) and, in particular, Chateau Griffo (Sebring) ran well to place on debut. Interestingly, though, the seven first starters to place in a Preview in the past three years, all went on to contest a Prelude and only one was placed.

A little battle weary with this the third city meeting in as many days and will be treading cautiously. Best bet may be Barthelona (Zoffany) in the $250,000 Inglis Dash (1100m).
Trifecta plays: Race 1 box 1, 4, 6, 7 and Race 7 Box 4, 8, 9, 11.