Winx on track for return
Champion trainer Chris Waller has confirmed four-time Cox Plate-winning Winx will return for another preparation after the public feared she would be retiring.
Waller confirmed on Sunday that the champion mare has exceeded expectations during her off season and will return to defend her Apollo Stakes title on February 16.
She’s really well,” Waller said. “She had three gallops.
“Amazingly, she is showing the same keenness and enthusiasm for her work as always.
“It is quite unbelievable. Any signs of her ageing aren’t there. Any signs of her slowing down aren’t there.
“She is as good as we can have her.”
Waller said she hasn’t lost anything in the off season and that’s a credit to her athleticism.
“She keeps herself in check. She’s an amazing athlete,” he said.
“You hear of horses going out for spell and getting heavy, putting on condition, but she seems to look after herself.
“Everyone at Hermitage and my team do everything we can to look after her but realistically it comes down to her, she is just marvellous.”
Waller and connections have taken some criticism in recent times due to not racing Winx overseas, but Waller remains firm on the issue that it’s best for her wellbeing.
“I’m looking for her to get the credit for being around for so long,” Waller said.
“We have made those decisions to pull up when we could have gone another run, or not to take her overseas, doing certain things that would have made it hard.
“But I think Winx will be remembered not only for being a great horse but for being a great horse for a long time and that is what singles her out.”
Waller’s international ambitions could be achieved with The Autumn Sun, which will run in the Randwick Guineas before potentially heading to the Royal Ascot Festival in June.
Long Leaf to take flight in New Zealand
Sticking with international news, Lindsay Park has opted to change tack with Long Leaf and head to New Zealand for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic.
Only for thoroughbreds purchased from the Karaka Sales, the $1 million 3YO Classic is easily the best prize money on offer for Long Leaf and despite a long run of outs for the talented type, his form will stack up well over the Tasman.
“The race is on the 26th (January) and he’ll leave the week of the race,” co-trainer Tom Dabernig said.
“At the moment we’ve got a flight leaving either on the Tuesday or the Wednesday, and James McDonald is going to ride him.”
Long Leaf finished third in the Sandown Guineas last year over the mile and running over the same distance in New Zealand should help his chances.
“He ran well in the Sandown Guineas and I thought he ran really well at Flemington last start,” Dabernig said.
“We had him wound up but it was a bit of time between runs and going to the mile in New Zealand we thought we would use the race as a good hit-out.”
Native Soldier out of Magic Millions Guineas
The 2019 Magic Millions 3YO Guineas markets have been adjusted following the withdrawal of Native Soldier, one of the better-backed runners in the field.
Trained by Darren Weir, the three-year-old pulled up lame following his win in the Christmas Handicap at Caulfield on December 26 and Weir said he has not recovered well enough.
“We scanned him again this morning and he’s got a little bit of ligament damage there in his near fore fetlock,” Weir said. “He’s alright but the scans aren’t that good.
“He pulled up sore after that last race so it’s definitely happened in the race.
“He’ll have a nice break now and we’ll get him back for the spring.”
Outback Barbie ($2.50) is now the clear favourite after having an unlucky run last start behind Boomsara, which is the current second favourite at $4 with Sportsbet.
Exhilarates shakes up MM markets
Exhilarates was a stylish winner on Saturday at Gold Coast and she has now firmed into $8 for the Magic Millions 2YO Classic.
The Godolphin filly sat just behind the speed and burst clear in the straight, which is a great lead-up to the feature race this Saturday.
“The way she was poised before the turn and let down really sharply there, it looked like the sort of performance you are going to need from a two-year-old in seven days,” trainer James Cummings told Sky Racing.
“It’s an open race next weekend and she’s going to arrive a fit horse on the scene and with good form.
“It was a run she needed… she wouldn’t have been ready just to go straight to a high-pressure race next week.
“She has been an improver and that’s the best thing about Exhilarates, early on she wasn’t showing she was any Samaready and, to her credit, she probably isn’t.”
Winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy is looking forward to wearing the famous blue silks on Magic Millions Day.
“I had the race under wraps from the 500m onwards, I thought I’m going to pick up nicely here,” McEvoy told Sky Racing.
“She had a little bit of a look around when she hit the front so there is probably more to come when she steps into stronger grade.
“I’m looking forward to carrying the Godolphin blue in the Magic Millions.”