Racing’s headline act, Winx, should continue on her record-breaking run in the $500,000 Colgate Optic White George Main Stakes at Royal Randwick, while Kementari and Humidor clash again in the $750,000 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington.
The Daily Telegraph’s racing editor Ray Thomas looks at five major talking points from a bumper weekend.
1: SHE’S THE GREATEST
Winx has been so superior for so long now there is growing debate about where she ranks among the all-time greats of Australian racing.
The mighty mare is aiming for her 27th consecutive win in the George Main Stakes and is long odds-on to extend her famous winning streak and claim her 20th Group 1 success in the process.
Winx has such an extraordinary race record already that her achievements on the racetrack compare more than favourably with the great racehorses in Australian racing history, including the legendary Phar Lap.
Trainer Chris Waller hasn’t decided on Winx’s race program after the George Main Stakes but the chances are this will be the mare’s final start in Sydney this spring. Winx is a once-in-a-lifetime champion and deserves a bumper crowd at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
2: THE MINI-EVEREST
Redzel’s favouritism for the $13 million The TAB Everest goes on the line when he contests the Group 2 $200,000 The Shorts (1100m).
There are four confirmed Everest runners in the field – Redzel, English, Invincible Star and Brave Smash. The result of this mini-Everest showdown will have a significant bearing on Everest betting, where Redzel is the $5 favourite.
The TAB Everest has become such a dominant race that every feature sprint is inextricably linked to the world’s richest turf race, run at Royal Randwick on October 13.
There is still one spot to be filled for The Everset with slot-holders Max Whitby and Neil Werrett sifting through a short-list of sprinters but in no rush to lock in their runner and complete the 12-horse field.
Even Pierata, the $2.90 favourite for the Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) on Saturday, could burst back into Everest contention if he wins impressively.
3: THE EPSOM PUZZLE
Trainer Chris Waller is almost certain to avoid a clash with promising milers Kaonic and Paret as both are in a must-win situation to secure starts in the $1 million Epsom Handicap.
Kaonic and Paret are prominent in Epsom betting. Both are rated at $15 but the in-form Waller-trained duo have only 50kg in the big race and are way down in the order of entry.
Waller has entered both for the Group 3 $160,000 Cameron Handicap 1500m) at Newcastle on Friday and the Group 3 $160,000 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The winner of either race is exempt from ballot for the Epsom, run at Royal Randwick on September 29. Waller also has Tom Melbourne entered for the Newcastle and Randwick races.
Also on the Epsom trail are defending champ Happy Clapper, Kementari and Comin’ Through, who clash in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
4: THE REAL DEAL?
Unbeaten three-year-olds Brutal and Smart Melody faces the toughest tests at Flemington on Saturday.
The Team Hawkes-trained Brutal, brilliant winner of his only two starts, is the $2.25 favourite for the Listed $120,000 Antler Luggage Plate (1400m). Brutal is among eight last-start winners in the 13-horse field.
Smart Melody, runaway winner of her three starts, is the $2.90 favourite for the Cap D’Antibes Stakes (1100m). The Kris Lees-trained Smart Melody is also up against a quality field that includes seven last-start winners.
Lees also has Miss Fabulass and stable recruit El Dorado Dreaming running in the Group 2 $200,000 Tea Rose Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. Miss Fabulass is attempting to emulate her dam, Samantha Miss, who won the Tea Rose Stakes 10 years ago.
5: STAYING DEPTH
Unusually, there is some depth to the Sydney staying ranks this spring with 14 lining up in the Group 3 $200,000 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) on Friday, while there is a full field of 16 plus four emergencies for the Group 3 $160,000 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Godolphin’s boom stayer Avilius and Brisbane Cup winner Sedanzer continue their preparations towards The Metropolitan in the Group 3 $160,000 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
Avilius, the former French stayer, has looked sensational in his two Australian starts for trainer James Cummings while Sedanzer, trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, is coming off a very good fourth to Unforgotten in the weight-for-age Chelmsford Stakes.
In early betting for the Group 1 $750,000 The Metropolitan (2400m) on Epsom Day, Avilius is the $4 favourite with Sedanzer sharing the second line of betting at $8 with Ace High, Egg Tart and Unforgotten.
GEORGE MAIN STAKES
1 LE ROMAIN (2) K Lees J B Mc Donald 59 $12
2 WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (1) C Waller T Angland 59 $251
3 IT’S SOMEWHAT (5) J Cummings C W Brown 59 $81
4 RELIGIFY (7) C Waller J Ford 59 $151
5 ACE HIGH (8) D Payne J R Collett 58.5 $23
6 WINX (3) C Waller J Bowman 57 $1.10f
7 EGG TART (6) C Waller K Mc Evoy 57 $21
8 UNFORGOTTEN (4) C Waller G Schofield 56.5 $12
LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS
Winx is poised to become the only three-time George Main Stakes winner after her successes in 2016-17. The only other multiple George Main winners are Kingston Town (1981-1982), Regal Rhythm (1967-1968), Count Radiant (1964-1965) and Shannon (1946-1947).
Winx (2016-17) and Kingston Town (1981-82) are the only winners of the George Main Stakes-Cox Plate double, with both champions achieving the feat twice.
Racing To Win (2006) is the most recent winner of the George Main Stakes-Epsom double, a feat also achieved by Imposing (1979) and Chantal (1966).
THE LEAD-UP RACES
WINX STAKES, RANDWICK, AUGUST 18
Winx scored her 26th win in succession with a typically arrogant effort. She settled back in the field before making a wide run from the turn. Winx unleashed a brilliant sprint to swamp her rivals with a stunning 32.33s final 600m sectional to easily defeat Invictus Prince and D’Argento. Unforgotten was held up for a run in the straight and should have finished closer than sixth, Religify was third into the straight but tired to run seventh, and Ace High was out-sprinted.
CHELMSFORD STAKES, RANDWICK, SEPTEMBER 1
Unforgotten struck trouble again at the top of the straight before finding a gap between runners and accelerating impressively to score by more than a length. Ace High was wide throughout and entitled to drop out from the turn but showed tremendous stamina to hold for second. Religify led early but tired to run sixth, It’s Somewhat was midfield throughout and ran seventh.
Favourites have dominated the race in recent years, winning 10 of the last 14 renewals. There has been six odds-on favourites win in this period with Winx the shortest at $1.09 in 2016 and $1.12 last year. More Joyous scored at $1.60 in 2010. The longest priced winner in the last 30 years is Road To Rock at $41 in 2009.
Religify is the only leader and will control the race tempo. Le Romain likes to settle on the pace as does Ace High. Winx should find a trailing position behind this trio and enjoy the run of the race. It’s Somewhat, Egg Tart and Unforgotten are likely to position in the second half of the field with Who Shot Thebarman out the back. The speed should be even.
Chris Waller has five of the eight George Main runners, including hot favourite Winx as he aims for a fifth consecutive win, and sixth from the last seven years. He has won the race with Shoot Out (2012), Sacred Falls (2014), Kermadec (2015) and Winx (2016-17). Tommy Smith holds the training record with 12 wins.
Hugh Bowman has ridden Winx in her two George Main wins the last two years and also won the race on Shoot Out (2012). But he has a long way to go to challenge the riding record of George Moore with nine wins. Glyn Schofield (Unforgotten) has won the race twice on Road To Rock (2009) and Kermadec (2015), and Corey Brown (It’s Somewhat) is also chasing a third win after successes on Mentality (2008) and More Joyous (2010).
The George Main Stakes doesn’t usually attract a big field so barriers, particularly from the Randwick 1600m start, are not as important. However, over the last 30 years, barrier four has been the most successful starting position with six wins while barrier seven hasn’t produced a winner in this period.
AND THE VERDICT IS …
Winx continued her famous winning streak with a typically dominant effort at Randwick in the Group 1 Winx Stakes a month ago. Her closing sectionals were stunning, including reeling off a 32.33s for the final 600m. The small field suits and the race sets up perfectly for her. She has had 10 starts at the Randwick 1600m course for nine wins and a second. Bad luck is her only danger.
Unforgotten didn’t have the best of luck in the Winx Stakes but her run was hard to ignore. She then came out and was very impressive winning the Chelmsford Stakes. She is staying at 1600m but if she has retained the speed in her legs, she will be competitive.
Ace High is at a similar stage of his campaign, coming off a gallant second to Unforgotten in the Chelmsford. He could easily have dropped out in the straight after enduring a very tough but showed his staying qualities to hold on for second. He can place again.
Le Romain is a proven Group 1 horse who won the Show County Quality first-up then had no luck from an awkward barrier when wide throughout before finishing seventh in the Tramway Stakes. He will get the right run here and should go close. Egg Tart was luckless in the Tramway and is not without some chance.
3 Ace High
4 Le Romain