(As published on Racing.com) The 2018/2019 season was memorable for many reasons.
Most notably, it will forever be etched in racing history as the season Winx won a record-breaking fourth Cox Plate and retired with an incredible 33 consecutive wins.
Australian racing may never see a horse like her again, at least in our lifetime.
The champion mare naturally dominated our WFA Performance Rating charts for the season but what about the others that will race on in 2019/2020?
Below is a list of the top 10-ranked Australian-trained horses from the 2018/2019 season, according to their peak WFA Performance Rating*.
Aside from Winx, I’ve excluded overseas trained horses that raced here (especially during the Spring Carnival) and any horse that has subsequently retired (e.g. The Autumn Sun, Trapeze Artist and others).
No.1 Santa Ana Lane (110.7 peak)
His 3.5-length romp in the Group 1 T.J. Smith at Randwick returned a world-class 110.7 rating, which ranked as the third-best performance in Australia during 2018/2019. Only Winx rated higher (twice).
With two other 106.5-rating performances during the season, he’s well established at the elite level. He’s no doubt the horse to beat in The Everest and any other WFA sprint race that Anthony Freedman chooses for him over the spring.
WATCH: Santa Ana Lane’s T.J. Smith win
No.2 Arcadia Queen (108.5 peak)
Her 4.5-length win in the 1800-metre G1 Kingston Town at Ascot last December was an emphatic signal that a new star had arrived on the scene.
Stamped by incredibly fast figures on the clock, this 108.5-rating win was – Winx aside – clearly better than any other Australian-trained horse achieved at 1400m+ during the season.
It is worth pointing out though that so far, this 108.5 is a one off and her next best is 102.7.
Now under the care of Chris Waller, I must admit to being more than a little puzzled that this rising 4YO mare has secured a start in The Everest (1200m). That’s totally at odds with the 1600m to 2000m distance range that looks ideal for her.
There’s perhaps no other horse in training whose return is more eagerly anticipated by the racing public.
WATCH: Arcadia Queen’s Kingston Town win
No.3 Nature Strip (108 peak)
He’s a much-maligned sprinter, but there’s absolutely no doubt that at his best under the right conditions, he runs elite-performance ratings.
He rated 108 winning the G2 Rubiton (1100m) at Caulfield by 3.5 lengths, won the G2 McEwen (1000m) at Moonee Valley with a 106.5 and won the G1 Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill in the autumn with a 105.5 rating.
Failures in the G1 Moir and G1 Oakleigh Plate last spring had his knockers out in force and there are no doubt chinks in his armour, but you can’t deny his brilliant talent.
They key to him is being kept fresh and in the 1000m to 1100m distance range.
WATCH: Nature Strip’s Rubiton win
=No.4 Alizee (106 peak)
We discovered during the autumn that a genuinely run 1600m looks a little beyond her best, but she’s very dynamic in the 1200m to 1400m distance range.
Her two-length win over Le Romain in the G2 Expressway Stakes (1200m) returned a 106 rating, which is genuine Group 1 class. Her season also included a 105-rating win over 1200m and 103-rating win in the G1 Futurity over 1400m when three-wide with no cover for the trip. With a more economical run there’s no doubt she would have rated in the 105-106 range in that race.
WATCH: Alizee’s Futurity win
=No.4 Avilius (106 peak)
An unexpected flat run in the G1 Australian Cup during the autumn was the only black mark on an otherwise faultless campaign that saw him win his other four starts and improve from a 101.5 peak rating to a 106 when he won the G1 Tancred at Rosehill by 2.3 lengths.
He has the genuine acceleration that many middle distance/staying types lack and that will make him a major player in anything from 1600m to 2400m during the spring. It will be interesting if James Cummings wants to have another go at the Melbourne Cup with him.
WATCH: Avilius’ Peter Young win
=No.4 Redzel (106 peak)
A disappointing autumn campaign has taken the shine off one of the most consistent sprinters we’ve seen in recent years, but his 106-rating win in the 2018 Everest was a noteworthy performance.
In five subsequent runs his peak is 101.7, so it looks like his best form is behind him now. It will be an amazing effort from the Snowden team if they can get him to rebound during the spring.
WATCH: Redzel’s Everest win
No.7 Happy Clapper (105.9 peak)
For whatever reason he hasn’t produced his best ratings in Melbourne, but his 105.9 rating in the autumn when an 1.8-length second to Winx in the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) was one of the season’s higher-rated performances. It was the eighth time he’s rated 104.5+ within the past two seasons.
Happy Clapper has won three Group 1 races in his own right and had it not been for Winx, he would have won seven. As a rising 9YO though, I have to wonder if he can hold that level of performance this season.
WATCH: Happy Clapper’s run in the Chipping Norton
No.8 In Her Time (105.8 peak)
She produced two 105.8 performances last season, when a narrow third to Santa Ana Lane and Shoals in the G2 Premier Stakes and then again when a narrow second to Santa Ana Lane in the G1 VRC Sprint Classic. Her Group 1 Lightning win in the autumn rated 103.
WATCH: In Her Time’s Lightning win
=No.9 Mystic Journey (105.5 peak)
One of the best stories of the racing season. This Tasmanian filly progressed from a BM70 win on the Devonport Synthetic track last August, to dominating the boys in the G1 Australian Guineas at Flemington during the autumn (104.3) and then backed it up next start with a 105.5-rating win when she was even more impressive winning the inaugural All-Star Mile, after racing wide for the trip.
We don’t know just how much better she would have gone had she had a better run, so there’s still an element of untapped potential about her. She’s an exciting prospect for the spring.
WATCH: Mystic Journey’s All-Star Mile win
=No.9 Sunlight (105.5 peak)
She’s one of the best-sprinting fillies we’ve seen in recent decades. After being a dominant winner of the 2YO Magic Millions and then running third in the G1 Golden Slipper, she returned as an even better three-year-old in this current season.
She rated 105.2 to win the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes in the spring and then returned in the autumn to win the G1 Newmarket Handicap with a 105.5 rating.
WATCH: Sunlight’s Newmarket win
No.11 Brutal (105.3 peak)
Technically he’s not in the top 10 but given he’s just 0.2 points off the Mystic Journey and Sunlight in equal ninth, he looks to have good prospects for the spring and is worth including.
A 102.5 rating on debut in July 2018 when he won by five lengths at Caulfield is, according to my records, the best performance we’ve seen from an O’Reilly two-year-old in Australia, a breed that typically doesn’t start to show their best until they reach the autumn of their 3YO season and beyond.
Brutal has followed that script perfectly as he emerged during the recent Autumn Carnival with a new peak 105.3 rating, finishing second to Winx in the G1 George Ryder. He then backed it up with a 103-rating win in the G1 Doncaster from barrier 18.
The history of other top O’Reilly progeny suggests that he’s likely to have further new peaks to come as a four-year-old, making him a real top-class prospect for this coming season.
WATCH: Brutal’s impressive debut
* WFA Performance Ratings are a numerical measure of a horse’s performance at each start. The higher the number, the better the performance. They blend the art and science of key factors such as times, early pace, closing sectionals, margin spread, recent and peak form and weight carried as well as the age and sex of the competitors, to give an accurate assessment of the objective merit in each horse’s performance. Subjective factors such as bad luck in running are not factored into the raw numbers.