The Spring Carnival is well and truly hotting up and a number of horses are rising to the challenge with some terrific on track performances. We saw the Winx at the track for the second time this campaign in the George Main Stakes (1600m) and she duly saluted, but in terms of performance quality she was upstaged on the day by the John O'Shea trained Hartnell.
Our top 5 ranked performances from last week's racing:
HARTNELL – 107
It wasn’t quite as strong as his 108 rating last start, but nonetheless it was still another serious G1 WFA performance and there’s no doubt he could have gone to 108 or a touch higher had he not been eased up over the final stages.
Off the back of these two performances the Caulfield Cup is an ideal target race, especially as he only has 55kg at the moment. If he continues to tackle WFA lead up races and escapes re-handicapping then he’ll go into the race with a forecast performance that exceeds what the winner of the race actually ran in 7 of the last 8 years and equal to the other (Dunaden 2012.) The opportunity to get a horse with genuine G1 WFA ratings into a major race like the Caulfield Cup with a handicap weight 4kg under WFA doesn’t come along very often.
WINX – 106
Ratings and deeper analysis of times & sectionals on the day suggest that Hartnell would have theoretically beaten Winx if they met, but I’d suggest that Chris Waller has his champion Mare exactly where he wants her at this stage of her preparation.
She went ahead from a 105 first up rating to this 106, which is consistent with last preparation and ahead of her 2nd up run in the preparation that she won the Cox Plate in 2015. The significant lack of pace in her first two runs this preparation have actually inhibited her ability to rate any higher in my opinion. Relative to the early pace she’s been running home about as fast as you could expect any horse to. Once she gets into a race with some decent early pace I firmly believe we’ll start to see her elevate towards her previous peaks of 109, 111.5 and 113, the latter two being world class marks.
JAMEKA – 104.8
She has progressed significantly here to a big new career peak (up from 101.6) which puts her right into Caulfield Cup calculations. Her dominant 3.8 length win in the Naturalism was stamped by a fast overall time and strong late sectionals, adding plenty of substance to that overall rating.
HAURAKI – 103.8
He’s come back a better horse this preparation and went ahead slightly on his 103.5 first up rating and at least gave Winx a challenge up the straight.
The quality of Hauraki’s last 200m in this race suggests that had McDonald used the horse’s energy a little differently in the race, he could have really made the finish interesting. Had Winx been able to use her energy different she would have certainly gone to a higher level as well, but the key is that Hauraki had a head start on Winx and in my opinion James McDonald missed an ideal opportunity to take the initiative and give himself a real chance of stealing the race.
Passing the 800m mark Hauraki had close enough to a 2 length break on Winx and by the 600m mark it was still a 1.5 length advantage. Up to this point in the race, both horses had travelled at what is considered a “very slow speed” for their level of talent and had plenty of energy in reserve. With a 1.5 length margin on Winx at the 600m it was the ideal time for McDonald to really made a move on Hauraki, seizing the momentum initiative to gain an extra length or so over the mare before she could have reacted and built her speed to the same level. It would have been a strong and very astute tactical move to have a real go at trying to steal the race.
However he continued to follow the race pace, which saw the entire field still travel at a very moderate speed between the 600m and 400m mark. Bowman was tactically aware and went a fraction faster on Winx to make up the gap and by the time they straightened at the 400m mark, Winx was no more than a neck back, right on the outside of Hauraki. Both horses had done little work and still had plenty of gas in the tank.
If you balance up at the top of the straight with Winx on your outside and she has spent minimal energy, then there is only one outcome… a Winx victory. Had McDonald gone for home from the 600m mark, she may have still run him down, but he would have at least done everything possible to try and win the race. Had the pressure gone on from the 600m then you couldn’t make that judgement, but the fact that the pace was still so moderate between the 600m and 400m well and truly highlights a lost opportunity in my opinion.
HE’S OUR ROKKII– 103
He returned from a spell last start with a 101.5 new career peak and then a went to an even better 103 rating in this race, winning easily by 3.3L… and he did that while racing in the worst part of the track. He’s a real emerging talent this Spring and a race like the Toorak Handicap looks ideal. It wouldn’t surprise if he eventually developed into a WFA horse.