Verry Elleegant is tipped to repeat the feat of her former star stablemate and secure back-to-back editions of the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) in Sydney this weekend.
Group 1 racing gets underway for the spring at Royal Randwick with an outstanding edition of the Wins Stakes, the field for which features a star-studded line-up of 14 hopefuls.
Trainer Chris Waller chases his seventh overall win in the event and his sixth in seven years saddling-up five runners led in betting by the current $2.90 favourite through Ladbrokes.com.au Verry Elleegant.
The daughter of Zed returns to racing on Saturday drawn ideally in gate five with James McDonald riding and defends her title in the race now named in honour of Winx.
Waller’s champion mare Winx won back-to-back editions of the race as the Warwick Stakes before completing a hat-trick in claiming the 2018 event as the race’s namesake.
Verry Elleegant chases her eighth Group 1 title on Saturday and races for the first time since the close second to Addeybb in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) here during April’s ‘The Championships’.
“Last spring she came of age and raced as a mature horse and now she’s in that same mould, so we can go into the spring with some confidence,” Waller told the media this week.
“I think barrier five is perfect for her. She likes to have a bit of room, and it has cost her in a couple of races in the past, but ideally, you’re saving a bit of ground on a good track.
“You don’t want to be three-wide and giving away an unfair advantage, so I’m happy with the draw.”
The danger in Winx Stakes betting is the fellow Waller-trained Kolding who is second-up off a close fifth in the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m).
The three-time Group 1 winner and inaugural Golden Eagle winner looks better suited to the 1400m having won the All Aged Stakes at the track and distance to see out the autumn and has Tim Clark coming aboard.
Waller also saddles-up Imaging, Sea The Stars and his resuming ATC Oaks winning filly – now four-year-old Frankel mare – Hungry Heart how looks over at 16/1 in gate three with Kerrin McEvoy aboard first-up.
“You never really can tell until they’re put under that race pressure as a four-year-old filly, as I call them because they’re still really young, but she’s showing the right signs at home,” Waller said of his potential Epsom Handicap-bound Hungry Heart.
“Some do it, some don’t, that’s how difficult it is. But I’d say she’s in the basket where she should be okay.
“It will tell us where we fit in in terms of whether she’s a weight-for-age horse of whether she goes down a handicap path and runs in an Epsom.”
Rosehill Guineas winner Mo’Unga and Kerry Parker’s ultra-consistent So You Think six-year-old Think It Over – winner of the Group 1 George Ryder in the autumn before that close Queen Elizabeth Stakes at 20/1 – round out the hopes under $10 to win.
The 2021 Winx Stakes runs as Randwick Race 8 at 3:45pm (AEST) as the highlight on Saturday’s bumper 10-race card.