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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Poet's Word, Saxon Warrior and Benbatl among Winx's potential Cox Plate rivals

Winx 'as good as ever' in trial but Chautauqua fails test again

Sir Michael Stoute's Poet's Word, ridden by James Doyle, wins the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
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The countdown to Winx's attempt at a record fourth Cox Plate stepped up a beat on Tuesday when it was announced that the mighty mare officially has 134 rivals for the title some 10 weeks out from the $5 million race.

Included among the entries for the October 27 Cox Plate is Poet's Word - the highest-rated horse in Europe after the Sir Michael Stoute-trained galloper added the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes to his Royal Ascot victory.

In a year in which the Spring Racing Carnival celebrates 25 years of international competition, it was fitting that no fewer than 26 overseas raiders have nominated for one of the carnival's showpiece events - a whopping increase of 11 on last year's figure.

Multiple Group 1 winner Saxon Warrior is one of a record 14 nominees trained by legendary Irish horseman Aidan O'Brien, who has also entered a further five horses that have won at the highest level in Lancaster Bomber, Deauville, Hydrangea, Rhododendron and Happily.

Godolphin's multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl, trained in the UAE by Saeed bin Suroor, has accepted the Moonee Valley Racing Club's invitation to contest their feature race.

Other notable international nominees include Japanese star Neorealism, high-class Godolphin stablemates Blair House, Emotionless and Folkswood as well as Irish Derby winner Latrobe, who is owned by Lloyd Williams and trained by Joseph O'Brien - the same connections who took out last year's Melbourne Cup with Rekindling.

The nominations for the Caulfield Guineas and Thousand Guineas were also taken on Tuesday.

Winx trial 'as good as ever'

Super mare Winx ensured her August 18 return to racing in the Winx Stakes will be her most anticipated race ever after she followed up her strong exhibition gallop last Saturday with a breathtaking trial at Rosehill on Tuesday.

"I would suggest that's as good as she's ever trialled," jockey Hugh Bowman told a press conference after the trial.

"I was very impressed with her," he said on Sky Racing. "I asked her to do a little bit more than I did in the first trial.

"She was more relaxed this morning than she was in her first trial and I think that was direct result of going to the races and having an exhibition gallop on Saturday.

"For me, it was a good step in the right direction. Some of that nervous energy has left her body and she's ready to go to the races now.

"She felt as good as she looked.

"I did ask her to use herself and the response I got was very encouraging."

Winx will break Black Caviar's record of 25 straight wins if she can win the race named after her at Randwick and few would doubt that would be the case after she cruised into third place over 1000 metres behind Queen Of The Turf winner Alizee and the Victoria Derby winner Ace High.

The one slight chink in Winx's remarkable armour is her barrier manners and again Bowman reported that she wasn't perfectly away again.

"She was a little bit bouncy in the stalls. I put her in a little earlier this morning because I just wanted to make sure she's standing there because if she draws in for her first run, she'll be one of the first ones in the gates.

"We went in last at her first trial but I wanted to put her in and make her stand for a little while, which she did well, but she just bobbed up as they opened.

"It's not what I wanted to happen on race day but it doesn't concern me because it is not out of character."

Trainer Chris Waller was delighted also: "Personally I couldn't be any happier with this morning's trial and she's bang on target for two weeks' time," Waller said.

Winx's stable mate D'Argento also looked to cruise to the post with the Rosehill Guineas winner nosing out the eight-year-old Hartnell, who looked as though he too had plenty to give on the line.

Chautauqua fails barrier test again

The path to the racetrack remains closed for Chautauqua, who moved a step closer to retirement at Rosehill on Tuesday after again failing to jump with the field from the barriers in an official trial.

Chautauqua had refused to jump from the barriers five times previously in trials and jump-outs in 2018, and while he again did not jump with the field on Tuesday morning, he was listed as taking part in the trial as his rider Tommy Berry did finally manage to encourage the horse to leave the gates - albeit many seconds after his rivals.

He is listed as finishing last in the trial, beaten 92.7 lengths.

The eight-year-old winner of $8.8million in stakes is under a racing ban because of his barrier antics and the latest failure to jump with the field might be the tipping point for connections as they strive to get the great grey to one more spring carnival.

I asked her to do a little bit more than I did in the first trial

Key data

Winx Moonee Valley
E.W. Terms
Sky bet