Group 1 racing returns for the first time this season with the running of the Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Formerly known as the Warwick Stakes, the race was won by Winx in 2016, 2017 and 2018…but there will be a new winner with a field of 10 lining up following the retirement of the champion mare.
It’s an interesting field of 10 runners, with plenty of horses looking for further than the 1400m later during the Spring Carnival.
1. AVILIUS: The six-year-old is all class but like many of these, will be looking for further than 1400m. His previous first-up runs in Australia have both been over 1600m so seven-furlongs is a new challenge for the horse. His trials have been stylish but I couldn’t entertain him at the current price over this distance.
2. HAPPY CLAPPER: The early money has come for Happy Clapper and if he his the same horse that finished second behind Winx first-up in the Apollo Stakes (1400m) last preparation then he wins this race. You won’t see an established Group One horse trial worse than he did a fortnight ago at Randwick behind Baller. He was fully pushed out and looked sluggish, not making up any ground until well after the post. For a horse that usually trials well, that is a huge red flag but we know his class.
5. KINGS WILL DREAM: Kings Will Dream makes a remarkable return to the race track after sustaining an injury in last year’s Cox Plate. Now with Chris Waller, I thought his recent trial behind Samadoubt was good enough to suggest his returned well, although I’d want to see him first before backing him.
7. INVINCIBLE GEM: She was terrific first-up behind Alizee, although Alizee was only asked for a 200m sprint and was then eased down late and the margin was flattering. She was on the heels of Princess Posh and Savatinao over 1400m second-up last preparation at Newcastle and the figure she ran that day of 3.6 lengths above benchmark isn’t up to this level. She does map to sit behind leader from barrier one.
8. UNFORGOTTEN: I thought the horse that may have gone under the radar in this race was Unforgotten. She is a horse that usually doesn’t trial well but her two trials leading up to this first-up run have been outstanding. She was never asked for any effort in her first trial over 900m. In the second trial, she had the back of Avilius and went better in my opinion, peeling off his back in the final 100m and really hit the line under no riding. Avdulla jumps off Invincible Gem to ride and the tongue tie goes on for the first time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an improved first-up run.
10. VERRY ELLEEGANT: One of four Chris Waller-trained runners in the race. The four-year-old mare improved throughout her first preparation with Waller and he looked to have finally figured her out, winning the Group One Vinery Stud Stakes and Australian Oaks at the end of last preparation. First-up last prep she beat all bar Amphirite at Flemington and the Waller stable were still learning about the horse and attempting to improve her racing manners. Amphritie ran a good race behind Mystic Journey in the Australian Guineas and we know how that form has stacked up.
Aside from Invincible Gem and Le Romain who finished 2nd and 3rd behind Alizee when first-up from a spell, it’s a bit of a guessing game with the remainder of the field as they have their first run for the spring.
Avilus looked impressive winning his trial. He usually resumes over 1600m, and to be stepping out over 1400m in what is his toughest first-up test to date, I’m keen to take him on.
Happy Clapper loves Randwick, he’s got a great first-up record, and he’ll get every chance with Hugh Bowman aboard from barrier 5.
1. Happy Clapper
3. Invincible Gem
4. Veery Elleegant