Racing fans in the U.S., Britain and Ireland will be able to watch live this weekend as Winx bids to become only the second horse to win a third Cox Plate in the 95-year history of the most prestigious weight-for-age race in the Southern Hemisphere.
In what promises to be a huge moment in the annals of the sport, the great Australian mare, the second highest-rated racehorse in the world (behind Arrogate) according to Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, will attempt to beat eight rivals in the $A3.05 million G1 at Moonee Valley in Melbourne and follow Kingstown Town (1980-82) into the record books as the only triple winner of the 1¼-mile championship event.
The 6-year-old, who set a track record when winning the race in 2015 and then won by a record eight lengths last year, is 4/25 to pull off what would be her 22nd straight win.
The mare heads into the Plate after a string of spectacular victories. Her 2017 campaign includes a second successive win in the G2 Warwick Stakes, and victories in the G1 George Main Stakes, G1 Turnbull Stakes and G2 Chelmsford Stakes.
This time last year, the race was billed as an epic showdown between the mare and Hartnell. Winx was a slow-burner, settling in midfield as Hartnell surged forward. But, at the three-furlong pole, the mare moved from the pack around the turn to storm home by eight lengths (see YouTube video above). Winx and jockey Hugh Bowman will also be attempting to improve their 2015 Cox Plate record time of 2.02.98.
Winx will be battling more than herself this weekend. Co-owner Peter Tighe considers her barrier 6 draw perfect and trainer Chris Waller said of her Moonee training run this week that it was “exactly what we wanted to see”. One of her toughest rivals may be Gailo Chop (barrier 4, 17/1 odds). The French-bred is fresh from a victory two weeks ago in the G1 Caulfield Stakes, an important prep race for the Cox Plate.
The field also features boom 3-year-old colt Royal Symphony (17/1). Although a wildcard, he will carry the lightest weight (109 lbs) and has a perfect barrier 7 draw.
Kaspersky, an 80/1 shot trained in England by Australian-born Jane Chapple-Hyam, will be ridden by Michelle Payne, who won the 2015 Melbourne Cup on Prince Of Penzance at 100/1.
The Cox Plate, which is the climax of an outstanding card featuring a range of G2 and G3 contests, is off at 5 pm Melbourne time (2 am EST in the U.S. or 11 pm PST on Friday night).
The racing will also be shown live on At The Races in Britain and Ireland, with the Cox Plate due to go off at 7 am.
American race fans can live-stream and wager on via the following ADWs: TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, NYRA Bets, WatchandWager, HPIbet, AmWager, and BetAmerica. Punters can also pick up free past performances and race information at Sky Racing World.
With the Cox Plate the last race of her 2017 campaign, what’s next for Winx? Waller is considering a European campaign next year. “Providing she is well,” he said last month, “she will run during The Championships [at Randwick in Sydney] in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes [on April 8th] and look to target a race during the Royal Ascot carnival or be freshened up subsequent to the George Ryder Stakes and be targeted towards a European campaign containing three races over a range of distances.”
Before that, there’s the year-end update of the Longines rankings in January, with Winx once again vying for top place against Arrogate, who will be defending his Breeders’ Cup Classic title against a star field, including Gun Runner, Collected, West Coast and possibly the Aidan O’Brien-trained turf specialist Churchill on Nov. 4.