World Class: Hartnell a big test but Winx has edge

The mighty Winx will be hard to beat in the Cox Plate next week

PICTURE: Getty Images World Class: Hartnell a test but Winx has edge By Sam Walker 2:11PM 11 OCT 2016

THE Cox Plate could be the race of the year in Australia, with wondermare Winx bidding to take her winning sequence to 13 against the red-hot Melbourne Cup favourite Hartnell.

A few weeks ago Winx looked ready to win the Cox Plate and go unbeaten all year, but Hartnell has proved the boom horse this spring and last week connections decided to try to throw a spanner in the works for Australia’s sweetheart.

Hartnell was intended to turn up in the Caulfield Cup this weekend, when he would have been a clear favourite and looked weighted to win, but his switch to next week’s Cox Plate has turned the Moonee Valley feature into a potentially thrilling duel.

If Winx prevails she will continue her outstanding unbeaten sequence, which stretches back to May 2015, including a wide-margin win in the 2015 Cox Plate and a huge weight-carrying performance in the Doncaster Mile in April. As a dual Cox Plate winner she would match the achievement of stars like So You Think and Sunline and her legacy could grow well into the future.

But success in the Plate could also prove a big deal for Hartnell as he would then line up for the Melbourne Cup with an awful lot in his favour and a huge chance of becoming the first winner of the elite double since Makybe Diva in 2005.

Winx the right favourite

Fans of Winx can back her at even money, which is the biggest price she has been in any race for 12 months, while Hartnell fans can get 7-4 on the Godolphin five-year-old putting a dent in the wondermare’s record. It’s 14-1 bar the two.

Those odds are probably about right, with Winx narrowly favoured.

She stormed to an easy four-and-three-quarter-length success in the race last year, which was one of three times she has trumped Hartnell.

She is the clear pick on RPRs judged on her Doncaster Mile performance (126) – which ranks her among the world’s best – and the 2kg (4.4lb) mares’ allowance she is set to receive from Hartnell underlines her authority on that score.

She also looked as classy as ever on Saturday, winning an unsatisfactory three-runner Caulfield Stakes by an effortless two lengths. The pace was sedate and her winning RPR of 116+ doesn’t tell the whole story, the success merely outlining her current wellbeing and tactical speed.

There’s also the fact Hartnell wasn’t really intending to run in the Plate. His inclusion may have been partly down to the penalty system for the Melbourne Cup, which means he could be penalised if he won the Caulfield Cup but not if he won the Cox Plate.

With Sheikh Mohammed’s team keeping one eye firmly on the Melbourne Cup – a race they’ve been trying to win for decades – it would be valid to question whether the Cox Plate is really Hartnell’s main target (as it is for Winx) or whether this is just another stepping stone towards the big one.

Glimmers of hope for Hartnell

But there are glimmers of hope for Hartnell fans as he bids to claw one back against Winx.

First, the 1m2f distance is at the upper end of Winx’s effectiveness, whereas Hartnell, a 2m winner in Britain, clearly has stamina to burn.

Then there’s the fact Hartnell has been getting closer to Winx race by race and he is clearly on the up.

Last time they met, in the Warwick Stakes over 7f, Hartnell gave Winx a two-length lead off a soft pace before losing out by three and a half lengths over a trip shorter than ideal. That was his first start of the season and he’s improved leaps and bounds since with three easy wins.

Considering the distance of the Cox Plate moves the rematch more into his territory, he should be expected to get a lot closer to his main rival this time before finally getting his day in the sun at the Melbourne Cup.

Nelson lords it over rivals

Breeders’ Cup Sprint hopeful Lord Nelson posted the performance of last week when winning the Santa Anita Sprint Championship by a cosy two and a half lengths with a career-high RPR of 122.

His main rival at next month’s Breeders’ Cup, A. P. Indian, was also a winner last week, but he ran below his best to land a Grade 2 at Keeneland on Friday with an RPR of just 117.

A. P. Indian earned an RPR of 126 on his previous start, which makes him the best dirt sprinter on the planet. He didn’t get the cleanest trip last week but still won cosily and should be capable of a much bigger figure at Santa Anita next month.

TOP LIST

Name (country trained)RaceRating
1California Chrome (US)Awesome Again/Pacific Classic133D
2A Shin Hikari (Jpn)Prix d'Ispahan131T
Arrogate (US)Travers Stakes131D
4Frosted (US)Metropolitan Handicap130D
5A.P. Indian (US)Forego Stakes126D
Almanzor (Fr)Irish Champion Stakes126T
Limato (GB)Prix de la Foret126T
Postponed (GB)Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup126T
Winx (Aus)Doncaster Mile126T
10Aerovelocity (HK)Centenary Sprint Cup125T
Fascinating Rock (Ire)Tattersalls Gold Cup125T
Mecca's Angel (GB)Nunthorpe Stakes125T

TURF

Name (country trained)RaceRating
1A Shin Hikari (Jpn)Prix d'Ispahan131
2Almanzor (Fr)Irish Champion Stakes126
LimatoPrix de la Foret126
Postponed (GB)Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup126
Winx (Aus)Doncaster Mile126
6Aerovelocity (HK)Centenary Sprint Cup125
Fascinating Rock (Ire)Tattersalls Gold Cup125
Limato (GB)Darley July Cup125
Mecca's Angel (GB)Nunthorpe Stakes125
9Chautauqua (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124
Found (Ire)Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe124
Galileo Gold (GB)St James's Palace Stakes124
Harzand (Ire)Derby124
Highland Reel (Ire)Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe124
Terravista (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124
The Gurkha (Ire)Sussex Stakes124
Time Test (GB)Brigadier Gerard124

DIRT

Name (country trained)RaceRating
1California Chrome (US)Pacific Classic/Awesome Again133
2Arrogate (US)Travers Stakes131
3Frosted (US)Metropolitan Handicap130
4A.P. IndianForego Stakes126
5Nyquist (US)Kentucky Derby124
Songbird (US)Cotillion124
7Dortmund (US)San Diego Handicap123
Exaggerator (US)Haskell Invitational123
9Effinex (US)Oaklawn Handicap122
10Lord Nelson (US)Santa Anita Sprint122

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