It has been billed as a contest between Winx and Hartnell – so will it be just that in the final stages of Saturday’s Cox Plate?
The market certainly says as much, with the likes of Yankee Rose, Vadamos and Black Heart Bart at relatively big prices despite being the next runners in the market for the $3 million race.
The Chris Waller-trained Winx won the Cox Plate last year in stunning fashion and has succeeded in her last 12 races – but Hartnell also enters in great form after a comfortable Turnbull Stakes win over Jameka, who, as we tipped, won the Caulfield Cup last week.
David Vandyke, the trainer of Yankee Rose – a multiple Group 1 winner in her own right – said their plan will be to time a late run.
“To beat the superstars in the race, we need every edge we can get,” Vandyke told The New Daily after she drew barrier one for the 2040m feature.
“Starting by racing on the fence may be one of those edges.
“The last place I’d want to see her is out in front. I don’t mind what he [jockey Dean Yendall] does in the run, so long as he follows the horse.”
Star jockey Hugh Bowman has the ride on Winx and said midweek his plan was all about ‘keeping it simple’.
The runner-by-runner form guide
In the race for a fifth straight year! Finished second in 2013, and 0.7 lengths sixth in 2014 but his best is now behind him.
One of three in this race to have ran within two lengths of Winx, doing so in the Caulfield Stakes last start. Can he close that gap? Should be in the mix at the end.
Considered the best chance of unseating the favourite. Effortless Turnbull Stakes rout was franked by Jameka last week but needs to handle the turning Moonee Valley track to beat Winx.
Has twice finished within two body lengths of Winx over 1500m and 1600m. Goes in as Godolphin’s second seed, though.
Ran within two lengths of Winx in the Doncaster Mile, but cops an 8kg swing in the weights against the mare from that performance.
Finished well down the track in past two 2000m runs in Group 1s, but won a 1600m G1 last start in France in September. Don’t discount.
Stormed into the race via a dominant Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes win. His last start in the Toorak Handicap had merit. Goes forward on Saturday, and will give them something to chase.
Twelve straight wins. Eight of them have been Group 1s. It’ll take some performance to beat her – and I can’t see it happening.
Past two 2000m runs on Australian soil have been wins – including the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in April. In the mix.
Surround (1976) was the last filly to win the race, although male three-year-olds have won three of the past 12 (Shamus Award, So You Think, Savabeel). The 47.5kg featherweight is a plus.
Luke Sheehan’s Cox Plate tips:
2. Black Heart Bart
4. Awesome Rock
Other Saturday selections:
P.W. Glass Fillies Classic: I Am A Star
Schweppes Crystal Mile: Tashbeeh
Antler Luggage Moonee Valley Gold Cup: Excess Knowledge
LUCRF Super Vase: Whispering Brook
Luke Sheehan is a journalist at racing.com.