Winx's trainer Chris Waller talks about the unique pressure of the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
Pre-race: "The time they leave the mounting yard, it's a small, confined area and it's like they're stepping out amongst a big stage of people and that atmosphere grabs the horses. The horses get on their toes. They love it. The adrenaline starts pumping. Not when they leave the barriers, but when they leave the parade ring."
Behind the barriers: "There's a lot of hype. The crowd is so close and it's just like being in a theatre and the horses feel it as well."
Early in the race: "They jostle for position and work very hard early to try to find that position and then the pressure just keeps building. They don't really settle at any stage, they [the jockeys]) are just constantly worrying about where other horses are."
The business end: "From the 1000m mark it's on for young and old. It just creates so much pressure, hence the reason why you don't want your horse to be a little bit soft in condition. You've got to be very fit. It's probably more like a 2400m race than a 2040m race."
Defending champion Winx:
"Having won the race last year in track record time, knowing that all those great horses prior to her have run and won the race yet not run the race time that she's run, gives you a bit of confidence."
Doubtless Cambridge horseman Tony Pike will be an interested viewer of the Cox Plate before getting down to business with his own charge Sacred Elixir in the following race.
Pike has taken the blinkers off the gelding for the group two Vase as he steps up to a distance his trainer has always expected him to relish.
Sacred Elixir has had the blinkers on for shorter races in all but his first career start, but Pike doesn't believe he needs them over the 2040m today.
Winner of the J J Atkins Stakes (1600m) in Brisbane as a 2-year-old, Sacred Elixir won the Caulfield Guineas Prelude first-up this spring over 1400m before his eighth in the Guineas when Pike felt he over-raced.
"I'll take the blinkers off and as long as he settles I think we'll see a different horse," Pike said.
"It's always disappointing when you're second favourite and think you're a winning chance, but at the end of the day he still ran eighth in the Guineas beaten2 lengths.
"It's always been difficult with him. He's had so much ability but he's bred to be a stayer. We tried to keep as much speed in his legs and probably just with the run he had he just got over-racing."
Sacred Elixir had his first experience of Moonee Valley in a maintenance gallop over 1600m on Tuesday.
"I just wanted to give him a look around the Valley and get him to switch off and relax, which he did," he said.
Pike says Sacred Elixir is bred to get over a mile-and-a-half (2400m) and he has confidence in him heading toward the Vase and ultimately his main target of the Derby over 2500m at Flemington today week.
"He's a very, very good horse," Pike said.