The Australian horse racing scene moves up a gear as we head into the second half of the year with followers having some monumental races to look forward to. The upcoming schedule includes the Caulfield Guineas in October, the highlight of the show, October’s Cox Plate, and the world-famous Melbourne Cup in early November.
Lovers of the sport of gentlemen have begun picking through the early contenders for each race with bookmakers lining up their ante-post markets. There’s plenty of value to be had if you’re looking to beat the queues and get in early.
What’s your winning strategy?
There are many strategies to siding with the best horse in the race in preparation for the off. Those with a keen eye can follow the form, jotting down performances in the build-up as well as the health of yards, trainers and jockeys. Others may want to stick to the trends, running over the numbers in the hope something leaps off the page – an age that has been particularly successful in recent times or perhaps an owner who targets the prize money from the turn of the year.
Others may prefer to keep it simple, put their trust in the markets and go for the runner that has been popular with both traders and racing journalists. On that front there has been none more trendy in 2018 than super mare Winx and she has a busy season ahead according to the betting.
Winx arrives in winning form
The Chris Waller-trained bay has won 26 consecutive races at last check with no less than 19 Group One titles included in that list. That’s an astonishing record for the seven-year-old but she’s showing no signs of slowing down and many expect the best is yet to come from this record-breaker. Winx was last spotted in competitive action when doing what she does best and booking a place in the winner’s enclosure, claiming the Group One Winx Stakes at Randwick in August, ensuring connections banked the cheque. The victor finished ahead of runner-up Invictus Prince and stablemate D’Argento who took the bronze medal that day. She was a 1/4 favourite and those joining the fan club shouldn’t expect to get rich following this star. So, what’s next?
Optic White Stakes
It looks like the first decision to make for connections will be which race to run Winx in on Saturday 15th September. One strong option is for her to go in the Optic White Stakes, better known as the George Main Stakes.
A Group One contest played out on the turf of Randwick Racecourse over 1600 metres. There’s half a million Australian Dollars in prize money to be won and traders are sure of one thing – if Winx goes in the race she wins with a bit to spare. They’re so sure in fact they have chalked her up as jolly, no more than 1/7 available when searching the latest prices on Oddschecker. There will be no shortage of expert opinions flying around on which runners to back that week but there won’t be many in the know rushing to oppose Winx, even at such cramped odds.
That’s little wonder, as the team arrive chasing down a hat-trick, having won each of the last two Optic White Stakes, coming out on top in 2016 and 2017. She also holds the course record after storming home with a jaw-dropping time of 1:33:65 last year. That eclipsed the effort of Racing to Win who was the previous champion on 1:33:75. Not only will Winx be shooting to complete three-in-a-row, she’ll also be fancied to break her own record.
Looking beyond the shortest price in the Optic White Stakes, you’ll come across a few worth a mention. Dargento, Happy Clapper and Kementari share a 12/1 price tag, 16/1 says Le Romain wins and there’s as big as 25/1 about Comin Through.
Makybe Diva Stakes
If Winx isn’t nudged towards the Optic White Stakes, it’s expected she’ll be dropped into the running for the Makybe Diva Stakes on the same day. Any success on that front won’t come as easily as it could in the race above though, as the odds tell us Winx is a 1/3 poke. She's still a very strong favourite and not a runner you’d want to be against in many contests, but she could have more of a challenge on her hands when compared to the 1/7 quote which says she need only turn up.
The Makybe Diva Stakes is another interesting one. This race is a Group One showcased on the Flemington turf of Melbourne; 1600 metres again separates the starting field from the 2018 champion and there’s 750,000 AUD on the line. First run in 1948 as the Craiglee Stakes, we’ve enjoyed some fantastic renewals over the years with some famous champions coming out of the list.
Humidor did the business 12 months ago when clinching the trophy from previous winner Palentino. Darren Weir’s six-year-old Humidor finished ahead of Hartnell on that occasion, despite going off a 16/1 outsider, the runner-up a 7/10 fav. He looked to double-up at the same course next time out but could get no closer than third in the Group One Turnbull Stakes. 1/5 jolly Winx was your winner, with Ventura Storm splitting the pair. On that showing alone, Winx will take some beating.
Others worth a mention in the Makybe Diva Stakes betting at this point are Dargento 5/1, Grunt 5/1, Happy Clapper 8/1, Humidor’s eye-catching 8/1 and the 8/1 of the very well-respected Kings Will Dream.
This is the pick of the bunch. The Cox Plate is a race marked on the calendar of horse racing fans across the globe and as well as the packed stands at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley Racecourse, there will also be a huge worldwide TV audience keeping tabs on the outcome.
Another Grade One, the Cox Plate was first shown in 1922 and the modern version we enjoy today is battled out over 2040 metres on October 27th. With an astonishing 5m AUD up for grabs this year, it’s no surprise to learn the biggest and best in the industry are scrambling to secure a place. We’ve enjoyed some crackers over the years but there’s no doubt the 2018 version will be the best yet.
Who will be crowned king? Traders are as confident as ever when nailing their colours to the mast and picking Winx as their standout. There’s a degree of uncertainty in the market at present with 1/2 the best price currently available while some firms have been rather more cautious in sending out 1/3. One thing all punters will know is if you back enough 1/3 shots at the value 1/2, you’ll come out of the season with a healthy profit.
There’s a strong case for this race being renamed the Winx Plate after she won three titles in a row, starting in 2015 and rounding things off last time. That treble drew her level with Kingston Town and you wouldn’t be shouted down in the parade ring for suggesting number four is on the cards. This mare is all about setting records and we are truly lucky to be spectators as she tears up the form book.
It shows just how strongly odds-makers fancy Winx for number four when allowing our eyes to fall further down the pecking order. Second favourite is currently Humidor at a weighty 16/1 and that’s quite a price for the runner bookies think is the next most likely champion. We then find the likes of Benbatl at 20/1, Gailo Chop 20/1, Johannes Vermeer 20/1 before things start to get a little silly.
Kings Will Dream is 25/1, Happy Clapper 33/1 and Grunt 40/1. They're big prices, but are they big enough to convince lovers of an underdog to part with their hard-earned cash?