Winx guns for her 16th straight win in the George Ryder Stakes (Steve Hart photo)
Legendary Australian mare Winx, who was recently ranked the joint number one racehorse internationally alongside Arrogate by Longines, is looking to extend her 15-race winning streak in Sydney’s Golden Slipper Day this weekend. The 5-year-old champion is the favorite to win the G1 George Ryder Stakes, but she could be upset by Chautauqua, now ranked fifth globally by Longines.
The George Ryder Stakes isn’t the only major fixture in Saturday’s $ 7 million AUD ($ 5.3 million) Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill Racecourse. The weekend also features the world’s richest race for 2-year-olds, the G1 Golden Slipper Stakes.
George Ryder Stakes
The George Ryder Stakes is one of Australia’s feature middle-distance races for 3-year-olds and up. This weight-for-age race runs over 7.5 furlongs and boasts a $ 1 million AUD ($ 754,000) purse. This year it will run at 3:10 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 18th (12:10 a.m. EST, or 9:10 p.m. PST on Friday, March 17th).
Last March, the Chris Waller-trained Winx won the George Ryder by 1½ lengths over stablemate Kermadec. The win is just one win in a 15-race record that includes the G1 Caulfield, George Main and Chipping Norton Stakes last year, back-to-back wins in the last two Cox Plates, and the G1 Chipping Norton just last month. The latter race marked Winx’s 10th G1 win.
On the back of Winx’s performance, Longines rated her the best horse on turf in the world last week. Her 127 rating is only equalled by US dirt track specialist Arrogate.
Unsurprisingly, Winx is the strong favorite to defend her George Ryder title at Rosehill this weekend. Given her odds of 4/25 to win, the key questions are: how many lengths will she likely win by and can she extend the 1½-length win she managed last year? After all, Winx won the 2016 Cox Plate last October by a record eight lengths.
That said, the winning streak of Waller’s prize Thoroughbred could end at Rosehill if next-best favorite Chautauqua surprises. Trained by Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes, the 6-year-old gelding, with winning odds of 7/1, boasts some key G1 wins in Australia, including the G1 Darley TJ Smith Stakes last April and the G1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes last February, as well as Hong Kong’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize back in May.
Chautauqua jockey Tommy Berry is confident, telling the Australian media that his horse will offer Winx her “toughest test to date.” As Berry points out, Chautauqua has a proven track record of a pulling off a strong final sprint in the final 600m of her races – and in times comparable to Winx’s own finishes.
The likelihood of wet conditions at Rosehill also favor Chautauqua, who is adept on heavy tracks. On the other hand, the 7.5-furlong distance of the George Ryder will suit Winx better.
A possible Winx–Chautauqua showdown is even more enticing, as they are unlikely to race again. It is also both horses’ final prep race before The Championships in April. Winx is set to ride in the event’s G1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 8th (April 7th in the US). Meanwhile, Chautauqua will compete in the G1 TJ Smith Stakes on April 1st (March 31st in the States) so his performance in the George Ryder will indicate how ready he is for The Championships.
Golden Slipper Stakes
The world’s richest race for 2-year-olds runs this year at 4.30 p.m. on 18th March (1.30 a.m. EST or 10.30 p.m. PST on March 17th). This six-furlong race for a $ 3.5 million AUD ($ 2,640,000) prize attracts quality horses, but it’s often the jockeys who provide the best guide to the winners. Winx’s usual riderHugh Bowman, a veteran Australian jockey with over 60 G1 wins, will race with Invader, whose odds are 22/1.
However, Houtzen,ridden by experienced jockey Jeff Lloyd (with 22 Group wins), is the current 17/5 favorite. Trained by Toby Edmonds, the bay filly won this year’s Magic Millions 2-Year-Old Classic in January.
The Golden Slipper often produces unpredictable results, though, with only two favorites actually winning in 10 years. The field is therefore fairly open, especially since Houtzen has yet to race on a heavy surface and this looks likely to be the track’s condition this weekend.
So She Will Reign, ridden by Ben Melham, at 5/1 odds to win, appears a particularly strong contender. She’slooking to avenge her defeat in the recent G2 Reisling Stakes, where she came second to Frolic.
Interestingly, both Houtzen and She Will Reign are among eight fillies in the 16-horse final field. In contrast to the separate US Breeder’s Cup 2-year-old races for fillies and colts, Australia’s leading 2-year-old event is mixed and features a balanced field this year.
To prepare for fillies Houtzen and She Will Reign battling it out in the Golden Slipper Stakes and a possible Winx-Chautauqua showdown in the George Ryder, American racing fans can visit Sky Racing World, which offers free Australian past performances and race info. TVG’s TV network will be broadcasting the entire Golden Slipper race day on TVG2 this Friday night. Fans can also watch and wager on Australian races at US-focused ADWs TVG, TwinSpires, Xpressbet, BetAmerica, WatchandWager, NYRA Bets, AmWager and HPIBet.
About David Haslett
A former Managing Director of Sportech Racing, David was appointed President and CEO of Sky Racing World in April 2014. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company, a subsidiary of Australian wagering firm Tabcorp, provides Australian, New Zealand, South African and South American racing content for simulcast horse-race wagering to multiple North America-facing ADW brands and race-tracks.
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