• The Group 1 Winx Stakes features a tight early market, with favourite Avilius taking on a field of superstars.
  • Speed map, rated market and runner comments from pro punter Mark Rhoden

Group 1 racing is back! This Saturday’s Winx Stakes at Randwick is the first Group 1 race of the season, and a crack field has assembled.

Avilius, Verry Elleegant and Happy Clapper sit at the top of boards, with the early market having the former on top, but little between them. We asked our NSW pro punter Mark Rhoden what he thinks of the race and the favourite’s chances.

Field

Speed map

This will be run at a moderate pace. I’ve got Samadoubt leading with Le Romain, Happy Clapper, Invincible Gem and maybe Best Of Days not too far away.

Verry Elleegant should be around midfield with Unforgotten behind and Avilius to snag back.

Runner comments

The favourite AVILIUS (1) is obviously a high-quality horse. He’s second favourite for the Cox Plate and has won first-up at both of his Australian preparations. The 1400m is short of his best trip but he’s the best horse here and deserves to be the favourite for mine.

Now a nine-year-old, HAPPY CLAPPER (2) has had an incredible career and has a good overall first-up record.  My concern is that he had a very tough campaign in the autumn, going toe-to-toe with Winx and travelling to Melbourne and back. He’s got to reach the end of the road at some point and that might be soon.

VERRY ELLEEGANT (10) is the top-class mare who can certainly win if she’s forward enough. But she did take a run to hit her very top in the autumn, so there’s a slight query on her here first-up.

Likewise UNFORGOTTEN (8), who’s a very good mare who’s trialled well for this, but she generally takes a run to peak.

INVINCIBLE GEM (7) comes through the Missile Stakes, which was a strange race. The overall time was awful, but we know how good she is at her best and she has a fitness edge on most of these.  She has some chance.

Stablemate to the favourite, BEST OF DAYS’ (4) trials have been okay and he ran well in the Orr first-up in the autumn. He can run a race if he’s forward enough here.

LE ROMAIN (3) was unimpressive last start, but is not really suited first-up generally. But on this occasion, he was well beaten and it’d be a quick bounce to his very best to win this.

Like most of the field, the remaining three are resuming here. KINGS WILL DREAM (5) resumes for the Waller stable after pulling up severely lame in the Cox Plate when he was with Darren Weir.  I’d prefer to watch him here. SAMADOUBT (6) should get the lead in a moderate pace here, but he’s short of the mark at Group 1 WFA. YOUNGSTAR (9) is a staying mare who didn’t come up last prep.  Likely to need this.

Verdict

I am indeed leaning to Avilius at this stage. He’s the best horse here on what we’ve seen so far and although 1600m would be ideal, his first-up record goes some way to making up for that. Price-wise, I think he’s backable at this stage. I’m wary of market moves though, one way or the other. I think the yard will be telling.

Verry Elleegant can beat him if she’s wound up – she took a run to get there last preparation but she’s better suited at 1400m than Avilius.  The market moves on the day could be very revealing.

I couldn’t take a short price about Happy Clapper after his very tough autumn campaign – he’s good enough to prove me wrong but I’ll risk him at the price. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Best Of Days run well again first-up.

 

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