HEADLINED by wonder mare Winx, there were a host of notable performances across the two-state Group 1 action at the weekend.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most talked about performances.
Commentators are running out of superlatives for Winx, who put a space on her Turnbull Stakes rivals in a dazzling Flemington debut.
This was the sixth time she has put a margin of 3.5lengths or more on the board during the 21-race winning sequence. But to say it was close to her best performance, as has been suggested in some quarters, doesn’t align with our ratings.
She has gone to a 109 WPR, up from 107 last start. She continues to make perfect progress towards her grand final on October 28.
This run is comfortably short of her elite world class peaks in the 113-115.5 range though, which she has hit four times. Saturday was 2.5L below that range.
The visual ease of the win had us all in awe and she could have won by a little further, but it’s important to put some perspective around the measures in the race.
Here’s how we break it down…
The big difference in the visual nature of her win on Saturday to her recent Sydney starts isn’t that she suddenly exploded to a near peak run or is better suited the Melbourne way of going. It was a combination of both a step up to 2000m and much more comfortable mid-race pace, which allowed her to move into the race without being placed under any pressure.
Winx was 8 lengths off the lead at the 1400m mark on Saturday, but the race pace from that point to the 800m mark was a moderate 37.32 seconds, which allowed Bowman to build momentum and make good ground, while still under a hold.
By the time they reached the 800m mark he was only 4.8L off the leader and then by the 600m he was 2 lengths off the lead. He was able to get to that position running just 36.79 secs between the 1400m and 800m and 35.69 secs between the 1200m and 600m. Adjusted for the speed of the track on the day, that’s a very moderate pace for Winx without being placed under pressure.
Compare that to her last start in Sydney on 16/9 where she was 7.1 lengths off the lead at the 800m and still 7 lengths off the lead at the 600m. The mid race pressure in that race was extremely high, which meant that between the 1200m and 600m Winx clocked 34 seconds (vs 35.69 secs at Flemington) and was still 7 lengths off the lead.
In a speed rating sense, Winx traveled approximately 8.5 lengths slower between the 1200m and 600m in the Turnbull compared to Randwick on 16/9 and was able to move within 2 lengths of the lead, versus still being 7L off the lead at Randwick. It was an identical scenario in her prior Sydney run as well, where she just ran down Red Excitement.
This type of analysis is one of the subtleties in understanding the nature and merit of a horses run compared to what our eyes visually tell us. It’s one of the reasons we’ve maintained our opinion that despite not looking as impressive as we’ve seen in the past, Winx’s Sydney runs showed that she was still going as well as ever.
In short, the distance and pace structure of the race at Flemington on Saturday was perfect for Winx to build into the race under minimal pressure and put a space on her rivals, while her two previous Sydney races were at the opposition end of that scale, totally unsuitable.
Back to Winx’s rating in the Turnbull…
It’s important to recognise that Humidor significantly under-performed in the race with a 98 rating compared to his 106.2 last start. That left us with Ventura Storm, who is being trained for a Melbourne Cup and is not a genuine G1 horse under the weight conditions of the Turnbull. The others in the race were out of form and significantly outclassed.
Had Humidor run up to his last start run Winx would have beaten him 2L. He failed, so in effect Winx beat a group of horses who are not genuine Group 1 class, at least at 2000m.
In her genuine rating peaks (113-115.5 range mentioned above), these horses have finished runner-up to Winx:
- 3 x G1 winner Le Romain by 7.3L (George Ryder)
- 2 x G1 winner Hartnell by 5.3L (Queen Elizabeth) and 8L (Cox Plate)
- 4 x G1 winner Criterion by 4.8L (Cox Plate)
In this context, Ventura Storm finishing 2nd by 6.5L does not say “peak Performance” by Winx and neither do her speed measures. The sectional analysis above helps to highlight why Winx was so much more visually impressive in this race compared to Sydney and while Saturday was an overall improvement, it wasn’t close to her peak.
Everything adds up to say this was a still an elite 109 G1 rating, but comfortably short of her best in the 113-115.5 range.
As we’ve written a number of times, she’s been on track all along this preparation and Saturday was an ideal platform for her to peak again on Cox Plate day.
Main Stage: 96
A brand new peak up from 91.6 and in a fast run race he showed he had superior stamina … and a legitimate claim on some of the big staying features coming up.
The way in which he won this race, settling a mile back in the field and finishing strongly with dominant sectionals, suggests he’s even better than this rating indicates.
We’re forecasting that he’s at least a 99-100 type of horse at this stage.
Keen Array: 96.5
The Gilgai was a poor rating race by Group class standards this year, more consistent with a normal Saturday Open Handicap race.
The references around the speed/sectional measures and the bunched finish support this belief, with the two proven class runners of the race Spieth and Silent Sedition both under-performing.
With the likes of Sold For Song and Malibu Style right there with Keen Array at the finish, there is no angle to find that suggests this race should be rated higher.
Bring Me Roses: 96
They didn’t go hard in the Manifold, so her effort to settle back and finish over the top was excellent and indicative of a filly that has higher rating peaks to come, especially stepping up in distance.
She looks a filly that can reach a rating around the 100 level and is no doubt a leading Oaks prospect, by the proven sire of classic horses High Chaparral.
Amelie’s Star: 101.5
This was up from 99.2 last start and she does have a 103 peak earlier in her career over 2400m, so there’s likely still some room to improve.
But she will definitely need to improve to win the Caulfield Cup as a 101.5 rating won’t be good enough to win, even with 51kg. While impressive on Saturday, it’s important to keep some perspective around the fact that both Almandin and Harlem were disappointing and the 2L winning margin was over 100/1 shot Granddukeoftuscany and 60/1 shot Kellstorm.
We will have more on the beaten runs of Almandin and Harlem in our Blinkers Off column tomorrow.
Up from 98.4 last start, he’s a very progressive 3YO Colt and he remains unbeaten after four starts after taking out the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes here.
He still shows he has a bit to learn about racing as well and once he puts it all together and can relax more effectively he’s likely to be even better. He’s a promising horse!
Ace High 98.5
This figure is well down on genuine G1 standard for 3YOs, but that’s often the case with The Spring Champion. Yankee Rose won this race last year in a 101 rating.
Ace High set a genuine pace in front and that gave the chasers their chance, although Tangled was desperately unlucky after being held up from the 600m to 400m at the key time he needed to be gaining momentum and reaching peak speed. This form looks competitive for the VRC Derby, but there’s likely a few in Melbourne (such as Main Stage) that perhaps have more potential to improve.