Winx’s last race is the bittersweet highlight of weekend Thoroughbred racing around the globe.
Also on tap: 3-year-olds in Japanese prepping for their Derby and the lineup solidifying for the three Group 1 races of Hong Kong’s Champions Day later in the month.
First, Winx’s last.
Winx drew the outside gate for Saturday’s Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, her final start before heading to the breeding shed, and both trainer Chris Waller and owner Peter Tighe said that’s fine with them.
“We prefer to be wider than in close to eliminate the problems you might get early in a race,” Tighe said, noting jockey Hugh Bowman always has been “happy to be out of trouble” outside rivals.
In search of her 33rd consecutive win, the 8-year-old Street Cry mare faces familiar rivals — foes who have tried just about every tactic in the books to beat her, all to no avail. No Blame in sight.
With Winx still in fine fettle and enjoying her work, rumors persist that her owners might have a change of heart concerning retirement, particularly as no plans for breeding have been announced. At the draw ceremony, however, they denied any intention of carrying on and batted down thoughts of an international tour to cap off Winx’s stellar career on the track.
“I just want to get to Saturday morning,” Weller said.
“Everything we do now is a last and it’s very special each time we do something with her,” Tighe said.
Sunday’s Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2000 Guineas at Nakayama Racecourse, the first leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, already has a bit of rivalry going for it.
Last year’s champion 2-year-old, Admire Mars, tasted his first career defeat as he finished second to Danon Kingly in his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Kyodo News Service Hai at Tokyo Racecourse. The two meet again in the Satsuki Sho. Danon Kingly, meanwhile ran his record to 3-for-3 with the victory in the Kyodo News Service Hai.
Also undefeated after three starts and looking to move along is Saturnalia, a half-brother to the 2014 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia . He makes his first start as a 3-year-old after signing off 2018 with a victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes over the course and distance of the Satsaki Sho.
Also worth a look are Satono Lux, Meisho Tengen and Emeral Flight. But the race has many still-developing runners and an upset is far from out of the question.
The fields are set for Champions Day at Sha Tin Racecourse April 28 with some top competitors from Japan and Europe on hand to test the always-tough local brigade. Noteworthy: the return of Australian runners to Hong Kong after a settlement of a quarantine dispute related to the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new training facility on the Chinese Mainland.
Much more on this in the next two weeks.