Why this season’s big handicap winners may pay handsomely at Cheltenham (Also, hello again!)

Its been far too long since I wrote a post on this blog which simply won’t do. Fortunately, a little titbit popped into my head earlier that I realise may well be worth following.

This season, all of Global Citizen, God’s Own, Frodon, Aso, Paisley Park and Elegant Escape have won major handicaps. Barring any serious mishap befalling any of them before March, I believe all six to be players for the five major Grade Ones at the Festival.

We’ll start in the Champion Hurdle division. Global Citizen has since played his part in successive group races after winning the Geoffrey Fielden/Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury at the beginning of December. He was no match for Verdana Blue and Buveur D’Air in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day but wasn’t beaten as far as initially realised having torn off in front and hung left into the straight. Back on a left-handed track most recently he made light enough work of Silver Streak and Western Ryder in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock.

Those two were also defeated by Brain Power in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he was in receipt of weight from those rivals and beat them by a smaller margin than Ben Pauling’s seven-year-old. Their prices, to me, do not reflect their levels of performance with Brain Power a best priced 16/1 while Global Citizen is available for some at 33/1.

With the Irish form looking mixed at best, Samcro looking more like Samslow (thanks to Paul Kealy for the nickname) and even Buveur D’Air now left with a few questions to answer, Global Citizen looks a value each-way bet at this stage with seven weeks until the off.

God’s Own, meanwhile, is unfortunate to be challenging in one of the most competitive ever divisions in National Hunt racing. Despite the competition, it is a class still utterly dominated, to boot, by a superstar in Altior.

He has been a likeable two-mile chaser for six seasons now and won his second Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November when fending off Ozzie The Oscar, a subsequent winner, off a mark of 156. No mean feat for a horse two months shy of his eleventh birthday.

Yet, there have been no signs that his enthusiasm has waned this season compared to last. He followed up victory with a creditable second behind the vastly improved Charbel in the Peterborough Chase and has an admirably consistent record in the Champion Chase. Third last year (at 40/1) behind Altior and Min, he was beaten fewer than ten lengths in both 2016 & 2017 while also being runner-up over course and distance to Un De Sceaux in the 2015 Arkle.

He won’t beat Altior, but with Footpad having failed to scale the heights of last season, Min and Fox Norton harbouring alternative options and Un De Sceaux and Simply Ned ageing just the same, many ahead of God’s Own have as many, if not more, question marks hanging over them. At 50/1, he may well give punters a grand each-way run.

So far, the thesis has been sufficient to provide each-way value, but the next two named may be potentials for the winners enclosure on St Patricks Thursday.

Both Frodon and Aso have returned victorious from Grade Three handicaps at Prestbury Park so far this season. What they have in common on top of that, is they both did so off top weight.

Frodon bombarded the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup field with a succession of exuberant leaps under Bryony Frost despite his diminutive stature. Off a mark of 164, it was one of the standout performances of the season and only Waiting Patiently is rated above him in the antepost market for the Ryanair. He flopped in that last season, but Paul Nicholls’ charge is still only seven and has surely improved. He is currently a highest-priced 16/1.

Aso returned from 13 months off the track with a decisive victory at Newbury in November which sparked a golden spell of form for Venetia Williams. Raised 8lb, he proved it was no fluke when, like Frodon, he won from the front at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. His mark at the time was 158. Having already run a big race in the Ryanair when third to Un De Sceaux in 2017, he is another who looks a revitalised beast. Even with 6lb still to find with Frodon on official ratings, 20/1 looks value for a horse who looks more than set to challenge.

The widest open of the Cheltenham showpieces is certainly the Stayers Hurdle with last year’s hero Penhill at the head of the market even though its likely we won’t see him until the Festival itself. Behind him, Apple’s Jade and Supasundae have other engagements lined up and so we fall on Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park.

There will be some concern that he finished only thirteenth in last season’s Albert Bartlett behind Kilbricken Storm, but he has racked up three successive victories this season, the first two in handicap company. To cement his reputation to the doubters, he won the JLT Hurdle (registered as the Long Walk) at Ascot for his first Grade One success, making him the spearhead of the British assault.

Ultimately, he looks a different prospect this season, so the Albert Bartlett showing can be put down to anomaly. Much like Sam Spinner last season, his form is the one to surpass this and 11/1 will be a price to keep an eye on as the Festival nears.

Finally, I’m putting my head on the line, ready to be jeered into submission depending on the result come Saturday. Elegant Escape will win the Gold Cup.

Now, I’m not normally one for trends. Nevertheless, Elegant Escape fits gloriously into an ultra-successful category of Gold Cup types. He is the fourth horse since 1994 to win the Welsh Grand National off a weight of 11st 6lb. The previous three have all gone on to win Cheltenham’s Blue Riband (Master Oats ’94, Synchronized ’10 and Native River ’16).

Having finished a gallant third in last season’s RSA and runner-up in the Ladbrokes Trophy, he has rock solid form in the book and is shaping better than ever this season. He has guts, bottomless stamina and emerging quality, all of which bode well for the big one. With the favourite yet to show this season and a number of the pretenders falling below par this season, Elegant Escape’s price of 33/1 will look even more generous if he wins this weekend’s Cotswold Chase (less so if he’s well beaten).

The six-piece would certainly pay off as an accumulator at least.

 

 

Boxing Day at Kempton

I haven’t done one of these for a while but, as it’s Christmas, I’m previewing the entire card at Kempton to come up with a few selections.

The opening novices’ hurdle (12:50) is as open as they come, a theme which the rest of the day follows. Didtheyleaveyououto and Thomas Darby had little between them when they met last month and the latter is now 3lb better off but THE BIG BITE is two from two over hurdles thus far and is already rated at least 6lb superior to them both. He won very easily at Haydock latest and would benefit from any rain which may fall before Wednesday. Mister Fisher and Rouge Vif can also be considered as likely improvers.

  1. The Big Bite
  2. Thomas Darby
  3. Didtheyleaveyoutto

(1:20) This novices’ handicap was won last year by the progressive Mister Whitaker and it pays to have recent winning form in the book. As such, LOUGH DERG SPIRIT, who has won his only race over fences looks to hold the key for Nicky Henderson. He was among the antepost favourites for the 2017 Supreme and faced some very tough assignments towards the end of last season over hurdles when finishing midfield in handicaps won by Kalashnikov, Blow By Blow and Soul Emotion, all of whom have gone on to bigger and better things. He won well enough at Wetherby on his chasing bow to suggest 136 is a mark keeping him onside. Dell Oro may have bumped into a useful opponent on his fencing debut while Vivas has already won thrice over fences and could spring a surprise.

  1. Lough Derg Spirit
  2. Dell Oro
  3. Vivas

(1:55) Named after Kauto Star, this novice chase looks set to live up to the name of Paul Nicholls’ quintuple King George winner. Santini could be a monster in waiting and the form of his first run over fences has worked out improbably well. Then again, arguably more impressive was TOPOFTHEGAME’s second in a hot race won by Defi Du Deuil when left 20 lengths at the start upon whipping round. The step up in trip will suit this giant horse. Both Bags Groove and The Worlds End jumped superbly during recent victories and if the rain stays away both will shorten while the mare La Bague Au Roi looks the most exposed of the likely candidates despite her 7lb allowance.

  1. Topofthegame
  2. Santini
  3. The Worlds End

(2:30) A BUVEUR D’AIR defeat in the Christmas Hurdle would be the shock of the season but that almost certainly won’t happen. Verdana Blue has proven that she’s a useful stablemate but the best bet could be to go Global Citizen each way as he’s achieved form of second, first despite pulling the arms off his rider on both occasions. If he settles, even in this field, he could prove he has the heart for this level though he will be significantly inferior to the dual champion hurdler.

(3:05) If Might Bite had even shown an ounce of his ability on comeback in the Betfair Chase, he’d be an easy option in what is the most puzzling of championships. His Haydock flop makes him too difficult to side with despite being the defending title holder here. Native River could find this on the quick side though he is a doughty battler and he will likely give punters a run for their money. That said, his run here as a novice doesn’t inspire confidence so both heart and head side minutely with THISTLECRACK. He won this as a novice two seasons back and though he’s had just three runs over fences since, his third in the Betfair inspired huge confidence that he retains his swagger, especially as he’s capable of jumping far better. Kempton’s flat track evidently suits him and he will stay better than young pretender Waiting Patiently. Ruth Jefferson’s star is undefeated over obstacles but he is having his first run in over ten months and he is thrown right in the deep end. Politologue’s connections are remarkably bullish for their grey’s first run over three miles but he gave weight and a length to subsequent Grade Two winner Charbel when winning at Ascot last month and he has a fair shout. A mention to Double Shuffle at 33/1 as he surprised us all with a huge run last season and horses for courses have performed particularly well so far this season – he could again.

  1. Thistlecrack     2. Politologue    3.Might Bite

(3:40) Although Ballyandy may well be suited on his return to hurdles ERICK LE ROUGE has been in top form recently and can continue his winning run with 7lb claimer Chester Williams likely to be a benefit. Stowaway Magic is a potential danger as well.

  1. Erick Le Rouge
  2. Ballyandy
  3. Stowaway Magic

Jose Goes. So what’s next?

When Jose Mourinho was appointed by my beloved United in the Summer of 2016, it was impossible that it could end acrimoniously. He was the Special One, winning a league title in every spell with any club since Porto. His ego and winning mentality coupled with United’s history and stature were the stereotype of a perfect fit.

Today, he’s gone, taking no Premier League winners’ medal with him. A Capital One Cup and a Europa League is all he has to show for his two-and-a-half years. After all nobody remembers a runner-up.

Critics pointed to his string of short-term stays with his employers. However, a quick fix was what United needed after the spiralling results and charismaless football of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal. Yet this description remains all too familiar. The 3-1 defeat against Liverpool was arguably the nadir of the entire post-Ferguson era.

It is possible that we will look back and realise Jose did an incredible job. Two trophies in his first season followed by a second placed finish to the greatest team in Premier League history constitutes some amount of success especially with the players at his disposal.

But the football, oh the football, was tedious even last season and since August its been a complete shambles. I’m not pretending the club isn’t rotting from within but Mourinho had to leave. Wholesale changes are needed.

Paul Pogba is first. He has downed tools and his influence in the dressing room has soured the atmosphere, impacting the levels of others. It is an intolerable influence and though he will undoubtedly be a roaring success wherever he journeys next, he cannot remain at our football club after his behaviour.

Romelu Lukaku is another readily disposable asset. Allowed to bulk by nutritionists and fitness coaches, who must also be fearing the dreaded p45, his touch is no longer poor but comical. If he didn’t play for United he’d be a healthy source of entertainment.

There are many others. Dead wood is obstructing a host of promising youth players such as Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes etc. who all deserve a chance. For the next six months there is no excuse for keeping them on the sidelines. Personally, I’d give Nicky Butt the caretaker’s job. He knows the quality of our academy prospects, loves the club as a Class of 92 member and there is nothing to lose. Insiders seem to suggest that United will appoint externally and so Butt is unlikely. Perhaps Zidane? Perhaps Wenger!?

A chance may as well be taken. We will not get relegated. We will not finish in the top four. The Premier League should become a playground to blood youngsters. A bottom half finish is not a disaster from this point onwards. The only trophy we can realistically win is the FA Cup on which we must focus. Whatever our best team is (and I have sympathy with whoever takes charge regards this as I have no idea what it is) should be fielded against Reading as a statement of intent.

It is a situation we must make the most out of. We are already the laughing stock but we’re in danger of becoming the new Liverpool post 1990. Imagine that.

Farewell then Jose. I’m as sorry as anyone that this didn’t work out.

Sports Personality: Is a rename needed and why I feel for Chris Froome

The BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award has once more courted controversy despite not doing a whole lot wrong. Notwithstanding a couple of errors on the night (cutting Helen Rollason award winner Billy Monger short during his speech to make way for Baddiel and Skinner to wail their way through Three Lion was tactless, so too was ignoring the tragic death of trainer Richard Woollacott), the evening celebrated a fabulous year in style and crowned a deserving winner in Geraint Thomas.

In fairness, the other five nominees all had claims to the title but Thomas’ Tour De France victory, having supported both Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins for so long, was fittingly rewarded and recognised by those who voted. However, for Froome, who outwardly supported a vote for Thomas on his Twitter account, it must have been an internally harrowing evening.

In bare numbers, the voting public has never done justice to Froome’s achievements. He has won four Tour de France’s, only four men in history have won more. That’s twice as many as Thomas and Wiggins put together. Yet that pair each have a SPOTY trophy in their cabinets. Froome has never even featured in the top three.

Both Wiggins and Thomas have an immediate likeability factor and have endeared themselves to a wider public than Froome has. This may seem harsh and Froome has never done anything to harm his personal image. Drug taking accusations may well have put paid to his chances and he is unlucky insofar as those that have dogged Wiggins in recent years came after he’d already won the award. Then again, they didn’t stop Mo Farah last year.

Froome would be a deserving winner if he were to ever take the prize. Saying that, how does one come to deserve the SPOTY award?

There has been a debate, certainly over the last decade, as to what SPOTY actually commemorates. In 2009 and 2010, victories for Ryan Giggs and Sir AP McCoy were wins for longevity, celebrating two stellar careers. However, in their respective years Giggs wasn’t even the best performer at Manchester United and McCoy’s 195 winners were fewer than in ten of his twenty seasons as champion. He won the Grand National yes and to the public who are less knowledgeable about racing, this is probably seen as the pinnacle. Nevertheless, McCoy did not win because he excelled himself more than usual.

Andy Murray has won the award three times in recent years but won no majors in 2015 when taking it for the second time. He is, however, a personality and an increasingly cherished character in our sporting world. Such is the name of the award, that you can hardly baulk at his haul.

Therefore, is there a merit to a renaming of the BBC’s sporting showpiece? Sportsperson of the Year is broad enough that there would be no required criteria but success, whether sustained or sensational. There would be no drama about the winner lacking persona or that they win in a year they shouldn’t have.

Similarly, do away with the shortlist. Those who genuinely care enough to vote seriously will know enough about the past twelve months’ action to make up their minds. All the shortlist did this year was cut two thoroughly deserving sportsmen from the line-up in Tyson Fury and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Both have achieved  their goals late in the calendar and so recency bias could have aided them unfairly but the show itself is there to remind the audience of what has been and gone.

It is an excellent award and the roll of honour is an outstanding one, a testament to British sport. Let’s hope the BBC ensure it stays that way. Fingers crossed for Froome and let’s hope there’s a racing nominee in twelve months time (Bryony Frost anyone?).

Big Races, Small Fields

The Betfair Chase on Saturday was a joy to behold. Five of England’s top staying chasers not only went to post, but had a chance turning into the final straight with Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai tanking to victory from Gold Cup hero Native River.

It was no doubt the highlight of the season so far in Britain and Ireland but for the biggest Grade One this side of Christmas, why were only five horse entered? Is there a dearth of quality among the top rank of there-milers?

I’d suggest not. Not a single novice from last season took their chance at Haydock while the likes of Definitly Red, the Charlie Hall winner, Double Shuffle and Tea For Two, among others, were all absent for reasons which don’t involve injury. Furthermore, there wasn’t a single challenging raider from Ireland.

The problem of small fields in big races exists in the Emerald Isle too, however and arguably to an even greater extent. The recent Morgiana Hurdle, which initially looked set to provide a stellar field, consisted of just four runners, won by Sharjah, a horse who should lack the quality for that level. Three of those four were trained by Willie Mullins and the fourth, Tombstone, had no realistic chance anyway.

Looking ahead to the weekend, both the Ladbrokes Trophy and Fighting Fifth at Newbury and Newcastle respectively, possess fields which could yet implode. The former is down to thirteen runners, the smallest field for the race this century and ludicrously low for such a massive handicap. The latter is reliant on Samcro’s participation which we’ve learnt to take with a pinch of salt. Whether he runs or not, the race looks stronger than average but another five-runner Grade One without him would be a disappointment once more.

Either race could yet shrink significantly further, trainers regularly expressing concerns about suitable ground. National Hunt horses traditionally prefer a bit of cut yet “good” ground is often seen as too quick nowadays. Surely the mere definition of “good” ground is that it is the soundest and most appropriate surface for horses to race on. Either this definition needs changing or the rules require an update with regards non-runners. “Good” ground should not be taken as an excuse for a horse’s absence.

However, particularly with the pressure of mega-rich owners desperate to see their horses win whenever they run, it is understandable that a trainer may want to be absolutely certain conditions are in their favour. Similarly, it is not simply an affliction that affects the top of the game.

A recent example of tiny fields at a run-of-the-mill meeting, and a deeply concerning one at that, occurred at Kempton earlier in the week when just nine runners lined up across the opening three races. For a track whose closure has been threatened, this can only ramp up the pace. Kempton is an historic racecourse but it seems that the sport it calls family is not too willing to save it.

The King George on Boxing Day will no doubt raise the alarm once more and the race is set up to be an intriguing affair whatever the size of the field. It would nevertheless be fabulous if we had a double-figure field. For that, we may need a couple of windmill-touting hopefuls but Double Shuffle was a 50/1 second last year and Tea For Two not much lower in the market in third. Shocks are possible even with the highest prizes at stake.

Nowadays, those highest prizes are under exclusive ownership of Cheltenham racecourse. As much as I love the Festival in March, and it is a truly wonderful time of year, perhaps it has become too mighty. There has rarely been any issue attracting horses to run at Prestbury Park (Footpad scared away the opposition in the Arkle this year and the Ryanair is a reserve race for horses unsure of their chances in the Champion Chase or Gold Cup so their smaller line-ups are understandable), nor will there be in a few months time. There is too much prestige to the point where the general rhetoric about race fitness, even as early as November, is that a horse’s ultimate aim is to be fully equipped for Cheltenham. Anything gained in the interim is a bonus.

Grade One status is not the same as Cheltenham status. Whoever wins the Fighting Fifth, whether that be Buveur D’Air, Samcro or Summerville Boy (or one of the other three, for as I’ve stated, shocks are possible) the celebrations will only be supplemented by claiming the Champion Hurdle. If anything, defeat in the latter would be made even more bitter with victory on Saturday. The higher you rise, the further you fall.

How the BHA could lessen the appeal of Cheltenham I do not know, although Brexit could well make the Irish opposition less prevalent in future years. Until then, we may have to accept smaller fields for the purpose of both quantity and quality come the Festival. It is an investment that pays rich dividends once a year but for most spectators it is worth it.

For now we are all left to question, as Ed Chamberlain just has through my headphones, “where are all the runners?”

Is the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the greatest race ever run at the Cheltenham Festival?

There have been some classic contests at Cheltenham down the years, some standing out in particular due to the appearance of multiple champion horses at once. The Champion Hurdles of the late 1970s, featuring Night Nurse and Monksfield, the two highest rated hurdlers ever, stand out, while in 1964, Arkle defeated Mill House in the Gold Cup, both of whom would subsequently rank as the leading duo in the history of staying chasers.

Champion Hurdles and Gold Cups are supposed to throw the best together, however. Sometimes, by sheer coincidence, the same generation of novices throw up an exceptional number who are capable of shock and awe.

The 2012 Arkle comes close as a contest of this nature. Not only was it won by the most glamorous 2-mile chaser ever in Sprinter Sacre but in behind, from second downwards, were Cue Card, one of the most popular and successful heroes of his generation, Menorah, who would win a Grade One the following month before adding four straight Oaksey Chases at Sandown to a long-lasting career, and Al Ferof, who had already won the Supreme and Henry VIII over obstacles before serially winning thereafter. Yet even this form pales in comparison to the 2016 Supreme Novices.

The winner needs no introduction. Altior is still unbeaten over obstacles, subsequently winning the Arkle in 2017 and the Champion Chase in 2018, jumping and bursting to life with an imperial excellence and elegance that has seen him go unmatched since this victory. For a record-breaking race you need a record-breaking winner for which Altior delivers the goods.

The runner-up, Min, chased him home in this year’s Champion Chase but up to that point, he’d only ever been beaten past the post by Altior (Simply Ned was only awarded victory against him in the stewards’ room post-race). He can also claim to be a Group One winner and has a chase rating of 167 which would usually see him clear of reasonable opposition.

Behind this duo, trailed in Buveur D’Air. Only good enough for third behind two novices he has won the last two Champion Hurdles in open company. He may not even have had to improve but has gone undefeated over hurdles since defeat two years ago. No more needs saying.

Further back, Tombstone is a former conqueror of Champion Hurdler Jezki at Grade Two level while Charbel won a handicap chase off 154 recently, suggesting he has a significant touch of class. Yet it is in seventh, eighth, ninth and 13th where more subsequent stars lay in wait.

The first of those, Supasundae, is now an Irish and Punchestown Champion hurdler at the highest level, defeating the “Machine” Faugheen in the first of those. He has also been a winner at the Cheltenham Festival having lifted the Coral Cup in 2017. Top class once more.

Just below him came Petit Mouchoir. Third in the 2017 Champion Hurdle he had previously won two Grade Ones in Ireland, beating the mighty Footpad in the latter of those. He has embarked on a career over fences but could continue to be hugely successful in either discipline.

In ninth was North Hill Harvey, a horse who beat the highly promising Sceau Royal over fences at Cheltenham as well as winning the Greatwood handicap hurdle and a Grade Two novice chase to boot. He tragically lost his life when running in the Grand Annual at this year’s festival, a crying shame as he had the potential to reach the top over the larger obstacles.

Last but not least, in 13th came Bellshill, who hadn’t the pace to cope with Altior and co but proved his stamina and ability when landing the small matter of the Punchestown Gold Cup back in April.

Looking back, it really was a stunning line-up for the curtain raiser. Even those who have gone on to achieve less have proven more than effective. All of Mister Miyagi, William H Bonney, Holly Bush Henry, Penglai Pavillion and Silver Concorde have won at least one race since, all of which were of a decent standard.

The final comparison must be made with this year’s event. In producing a late burst to collar Kalashnikov, Summerville Boy earned an RPR (Racing Post Rating) of 156. In finishing third to stablemate Altior, Buveur D’Air achieved an RPR of 157, the winner reaching a supposed mark of 166, almost unheard of for a novice. All 14 who contested 2016’s running achieved a better rating than those who finished 10th or below this year (19 runners).

Between them, the Supreme class of 2016 have won a staggering 56 races since Altior first stormed up the Cheltenham hill. It’s a phenomenal record that looks set to grow and grow during this season and beyond.

If there’s been a race at Cheltenham that betters it in quality, I’d love to see it.

Winx: Unbelievable, Untouchable and at last, an Undisputed Champion

Arsenal’s Invincibles are, rightly, considered to have achieved a status of immortality having gone the 2003/04 season undefeated. Winx, likewise, rose into another realm of greatness after her 29th successive victory in the Cox Plate, a race she was winning for the fourth straight year. But why has it taken so long for her to be accepted as a sporting goddess?

It is difficult for any horse anywhere in the world to string together a run of successes at the top level. A glance at the form of some of the UK’s greats of recent years highlights that. Cracksman has so often looked imperious and yet even he has been beaten this year, behind Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes. Enable is, to all intents and purpose, our Winx, an elegant but ruthless champion. Yet she has lost within the space of the last two seasons, far more recently than Australia’s equivalent.

So to end up with an unbeaten run stretching back over three-and-a-half years, encompassing 22 Group Ones, the last ten of which have been won in an unbroken sequence, is a feat unworthy of entertaining discussion. Yet, there has been one and one that continues to be hotly debated.

It is worth putting in context with the aforementioned Arsenal team’s achievements. They went 38 games unbeaten at the top level although their only genuine opposition that season were Manchester United, who they came within a width of a crossbar of losing to. Nevertheless, their feat is incredible and no experts deny this. However, in football, unlike in racing, going undefeated does not insist upon victory. To wit, Arsenal drew twelve of their thirty-eight games. Winx, of course, has relied purely upon passing the post in front. No ties, nothing comparable.

The most important thing about Winx’s run is that she has garnered a following that extends far beyond racing fans and experts. Enable is special but her charms do not yet include those of marketability that Winx possesses. Indeed, not since Frankel and Kauto Star passed into retirement in 2011-12, has there been a horse who has captured a significant part of the public’s imagination.

Whereas celebrations at Longchamp were for a champion, those at Moonee Valley yesterday were for an adopted daughter of the Australian nation. Their prodigy not only put on a show but proved a point to a number of her doubters, including a number of the English media. And if there’s anything Australians love more than anything else, its a sporting victory over the sceptical Poms.

The form, in my opinion, can no longer be crabbed either. True, in terms of ratings, European horses have been stronger than their Australian counterparts for the last few years and they have even started to dominate the Southern Hemisphere’s big prizes. But in beating Benbatl, a horse known to be a good traveller, with Group One victories in Germany, Dubai and in Caulfield’s Ladbrokes Stakes, she has defeated one of the UK’s globetrotting superstars.

Realistically, exporting Enable or Cracksman was never on the cards. That should not detract from the performances of the Gosden duo, nor the near excessive streak of Winx. They live at opposing poles and the excuse of travel would be all too easy a backboard for the trainer of whomever lost the battle.

I think Winx would win. In a match over 1m2f, I have seen nothing that would dissuade me from that opinion. It needn’t matter though. She is a great and whatever occurs from this day forward, she has nothing left to prove.