Racing: Cassidy picks against Winx

By Mike Dillon

Glamour mare Winz could face a sterner test than expected in the Cox Plate tomorrow. Picture / Getty Images
Glamour mare Winz could face a sterner test than expected in the Cox Plate tomorrow. Picture / Getty Images

For not the first time in his eventful life, Jimmy "The Pumper" Cassidy finds himself standing alone.

Cox Plate winning jockeys Malcolm Johnston and Ron Quinton say they can't see Winx beaten and the great mare's trainer Chris Waller admits to not being worried about facing Hartnell in tomorrow's magical A$3 million Cox Plate.

Peter Moody, who knows a bit about winning streaks with his former great Black Caviar, says Winx is "Unbeatable".

The Pumper says, without doubt, he would rather be riding Hartnell if he was still in a raceday saddle.

"With his turn of foot and attitude he will be very hard to beat, even for Winx," said Cassidy yesterday.

The Pumper rode his 100th group one winner two years ago next week and retired five days later. During his reign, the Sydney-based New Zealander produced magical moments in the saddle that only the term genius properly covers.

You could imagine him salivating at the opportunity of producing a slice of magic that could bring Winx undone tomorrow.

That job will be left to another New Zealand child prodigy in James McDonald. No one in Australia is riding better than McDonald, who could not possibly have landed the job of No 1 Southern Hemisphere rider for Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum without his own bag of tricks.

McDonald and Hugh Bowman, the rider of Winx, are mates and often go running/walking together to lose weight when in their hometown of Sydney. That mateship won't go on the line tomorrow, but it will be completely forgotten for at least three minutes as A$3 million in stakemoney and around A$10 million from punters' pockets goes begging for a touch of genius.

McDonald tells a lovely story about running around the roads of Randwick one day when Bowman was not available. Two coppers in a patrol car did not like the sight of a young man in a hoodie running the streets so they pulled him up. Explanations accepted, the cops asked for a tip for the following day.

"It ran second and I had to change my running route," laughs McDonald.

Bowman says tomorrow's race will be entirely different to the Cox Plate he won on Winx last year, in which The Cleaner set a solid pace.

"There is no natural pacemaker in this race, so tactics will come into play."

Bowman declares the obvious: "Winx is a much better horse this time. I couldn't read her lead-up form last year, in fact, I nearly rode Preferment instead."

It is estimated bookmakers have lost A$100 million on Winx's 12-straight winning spree and more goes on the line tomorrow.

Her rider believes her Caulfield Stakes win, against just two opponents, was much tougher on Winx than it might have appeared, but he says when he rode her in quiet work earlier this week she felt completely recovered.

There is one niggling worry - how tough a run can Hartnell withstand and still be at 100 per cent for the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday week?

The obvious lead-up was the Caulfield Cup, which Hartnell could have won galloping backwards, but a re-handicap was the least desirable outcome. There is no re-handicap for winning the Cox Plate.

Several other potential dangers have been put forward this week, but Bowman won't have it.

"Make no mistake, this is a two-horse race."

Punting pointers

• Due one: Road Trip (R8 Pukekohe today). Eight times second from 20 starts and has a nice draw this time. This is an easier field than at Hastings.

• Nice first up: Preetha Varma (R8, Ellerslie). Talented mare who fought gamely for second when resuming. Won't be long winning.

• The Moreira factor: Lady Le Fay (R5, Moonee Valley). The former New Zealand mare is on the verge of a win after two starts back this campaign. Joao Moreira in the saddle will do no harm.

- NZ Herald

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