Horse Racing
Benbatl clashes with top mare Winx in a small field Cox Plate

23/10/2018 17:00

Wonder mare Winx will face seven rivals, including two from the Northern Hemisphere, in her bid to win the G1 Cox Plate (2040m) for the fourth year running at Moonee Valley this Saturday.

The remarkable seven-year-old race mare has won 28 races in succession including 21 at G1 level and, of course, the last three Cox Plates, which is considered Australia’s highest class race. It’s one of six races being simulcast from the Melbourne track on Saturday, 27 October, 2018.

Her career record stands at 32 wins and three seconds from 38 starts and her prize money earnings stand just above HK$110 million. That tally will be bettered by a further HK$16.6 million if, on Saturday, she surpasses Kingston Town – the only other horse to win the race three times (1980-1982).

Trained by Chris Waller and ridden by Hugh Bowman in her past 25 wins, the mare is a short priced favourite to win the 2040 metres contest with last year’s runner-up Humidor and the international visitor Benbatl generally considered her most significant rivals.

Winx graduates from a last start win in the G1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m), which she also won last year, and has not been beaten since April 2015 when second – with Joao Moreira aboard – in the Australian Oaks.

Saeed bin Suroor saddles up the Godolphin challenger Benbatl who won the G1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on 13 October at his Australian debut. The trainer also took last Saturday’s G1 Caulfield Cup with Best Solution and is enjoying his most successful Australian raid.

Benbatl is the highest rated international Cox Plate runner since Grandera, also trained by bin Suroor, finished a 1.4 lengths third behind Northerly in 2002. Should he succeed, he would become just the second northern hemisphere trained winner, following the Aidan O’Brien trained Adelaide in 2014.

O’Brien is this year represented by Irish Derby runner-up and recent G3 winner Rostropovich. Ryan Moore flies in to take the ride while Oisin Murphy arrives to replace Pat Cosgrave on Benbatl.

The Darren Weir-trained Humidor, who finished within a half-length of Winx in the 2017 Cox Plate, was finishing well when a 2.35 lengths third to Benbatl in the Caulfield lead-up race. His Cox Plate second last year came at his only run at the track and the trainer will fit blinkers again to the six-year-old.

Winx has drawn barrier six and her trainer Waller says the mare has never been in better shape. “She’s in a vein right now where she’s never been better. Through her first couple of Cox Plates she was still maturing.  We’re enjoying this 12 months period where she’s been right at her peak,” Waller said.

Benbatl’s Cox Plate mission has been in the planning since the start of the year according to bin Suroor. “The plan was devised in January and confirmed after Benbatl won in Dubai. He’s done very well here in Australia and will be at his best for Saturday.

“He’s always shown very good ability but was a slow maturer. After he won his first start at Doncaster by seven lengths, Sheikh Mohammed rang me and said ‘Where you hide this horse?’” bin Suroor said.