Australia: Winx and Hartnell set for Cox Plate showdown

Godolphin's Hartnell is a serious threat to Winx

PICTURE: racingandsports.com.au Australia: Winx and Hartnell set for Cox Plate By Mark Scully in Melbourne 6:29PM 21 OCT 2016

THE established champion; the formidable challenger; the overseas wildcard and the young upstart – put simply, tomorrow’s Cox Plate has the lot.

Australia’s greatest weight-for-age contest has attracted a field worthy of that moniker, with all ten horses heading to post boasting either some degree of high-level form or potential to achieve it.

Winx, arguably Australia’s most important horse since Black Caviar, has been awesome once again this spring and has had the measure of her closest market rival Hartnell on all three occasions their paths have crossed.

Winx's trainer Chirs Waller is hardly expecting that to change. "She's flying, simple as that," he said. "She's as good as we had her this time last year, if not better. Her attitude is good, her work has been flawless, and it's quite obvious she loves the Valley."

Waller's one concern might be the degree of recent improvement shown by Godolphin’s Hartnell, who heads to the weird and wonderful Moonee Valley in the form of his life courtesy of three straight wins, most recently in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington.

His rider James McDonald, who did so well in Britain over the summer, said: "Seven isn't a bad draw, it gives me a few options. The horse has improved massively, he's put some wide-margin wins together and it's going to be an intriguing race."

Deep contest

While the race is being billed by many as a match between the pair, French raider Vadamos dazzled in a piece of work at the course this week and looks sure to give the home team plenty to think about. Who rides him, however, was unknown on Friday, with Typhoon Haima preventing Hong Kong-based jockey Joao Moreira from travelling to Australia.

Also catching the eye of late has been three-year-old Yankee Rose, a winner of the Group 1 Champion Stakes last time and whose connections confidently selected stall one at this week's draw, in the manner of a team with a plan.

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