Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby can loosen Aidan O’Brien’s stanglehold on the Centennial Celebration – MBNA Chester Vase Stakes with Ispolini.
O’Brien has won this Group Three contest for the last five years and while he fields three in the extended 12-furlong heat, it is Appleby’s runner who can take centre stage on the first day of the Chester Cup meeting.
Ispolini has actually already beaten O’Brien’s reopposing Hunting Horn once this term, with the pair finishing second and third in the Sandown Classic Trial last month.
Just a length and a quarter separated them at the line, but given Ispolini was making his seasonal bow that day and Hunting Horn had a previous run, you would expect the Godolphin runner to make greater strides for that outing.
Ispolini won one of his two juvenile outings last year, claiming a 10-furlong all-weather maiden in November, so clearly he is still a bit of a dark horse at present, despite his rating of 106.
Hailing from a family which includes the likes of Nathaniel and Great Heavens, it would be reasonable to expect this Dubawi colt to really come into his own over middle distances and his current odds for the Investec Derby would likely be slashed if he does the business here.
Dramatically should ensure O’Brien does not go home empty-handed by winning the Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks.
She takes a hike in trip after finishing ninth in the Nell Gwyn on her return, with eventual 1000 Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook one of those to come home in front of her.
Dramatically’s pedigree suggests she might appreciate more of a test, though, with her dam Wonder Of Wonders actually winning this race back in 2011 before going on to be second in the Oaks at Epsom.
She will have to improve, but this Listed heat could be within her compass.
Charlie Appleby feels Soliloquy’s superior pace could give her the edge over stablemate Wild Illusion in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday.
The affable trainer will head to the Rowley Mile in search of a first British Classic success and fires a formidable twin assault at the fillies’ showpiece.
Wild Illusion brings the stronger form to the table, having struck Group One glory as a two-year-old in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly.
However, jockey William Buick has sided with Soliloquy, who made an impressive reappearance in the Nell Gwyn at Newmarket less than three weeks ago.
Appleby said: “We’re very happy with both fillies.
“William rode Soliloquy in the Nell Gwyn and rode her in plenty of work before that. He was always very happy with her and she shows more pace than Wild Illusion, but Wild Illusion has never been a work horse, so it was a hard decision for him.
“Visually, on race evidence, Soliloquy has got a bit more of a pace angle, whereas with Wild Illusion we are working back from an Oaks with her.
“Wild Illusion is ready to run and she brings Group One form into the race.”
James Doyle will partner Wild Illusion, just as he did on each of her three starts last season.
The superlatives are starting to run out.
As Australian super horse Winx won her 25th straight race, to equal the legendary Black Caviar’s record, racing experts, jockeys, even other owners all seemed to agree on one thing: “She’s getting better.”
As she turned for home in the Queen Elizabeth stakes at Randwick racecourse in Sydney, the job was certainly in front of the six-year-old.
The leader Gailo Chop surged clear and jockey Hugh Bowman had the entire field in front of her.
But Bowman, who has partnered Winx for all but two of her record-equaling run, wasn’t worried.
“I know I’ve got the engine to round them up,” explained Bowman, “but I can’t do it on my own, Ambitious made a bit of a mid-race move, which fortunately played into my hands.
“The bottom line is she’s got 10 to 12 lengths on her rivals. It makes it easy for me.”
As Bowman knew she would, when needed Winx found a gear her rivals do not own and she went clear to win by about four lengths from Gailo Chop and Happy Clapper.
Like all the greatest horse Winx runs for fun, the same as the great American champion of the Depression, Seabiscuit.
Seabiscuit’s jockeys, including the one and only Red Pollard, would always let another horse pull up alongside her so Seabiscuit could see he had an opponent – then he would take off scorching the opposition.
Winx likes to give the rest of the field a head-start. Just to give herself a bit of a challenge.
Bowman only had to use the whip once on the run home.
A little whisper in the ear to say: “Time to go.” Winx only needs to be told once.
Then when Winx made her move, the crowd went with her — as did millions more watching around Australia.
Winx fever, like Black Caviar before her, has gripped the nation.
As Bowman explains: “You can only get the best out of her when she’s running against the best.”
As leading local racing writer Ray Thomas described it: “This was the moment. The champion mare was racing for history and she wasn’t about to let anyone down.”
Winx, you see likes to put on a show, rising to the big moment.
“She’s just an exceptional athlete, she creates so much attention, I’m just so elated, I’m so proud of her and I’m just so proud to be a part of it.”
“There’s so many cogs to the wheel and I know I get the dream ride here today… if something went wrong it wouldn’t be a good place to be, but she’s so exceptional, she is able to overcome everything and what a pleasure she is for sport.”
Winx has done so much for racing in the nation over the last two years.
Australians love a winner and Winx is one of the greatest.
She has helped to re-popularise the sport in a crowd sporting marketplace – and more importantly begun to win over a whole new generation of fans.
The racing fraternity, although tired of losing to her, are secretly grateful.
But what makes Winx so good. Like Seabiscuit she is beatable, or she used to be.
She started her racing career on June 2014 with three victories, then from September 2014 to May 2015 she won just one of seven races – and perhaps her racing days may have been over.
But then on May 16, 2015 in a Group 3 race for three-year-olds, on the Sunshine Coast (of all places), partnered by Larry Cassidy she began the run of 25 which has captured the attention of the world and taken her the ranking of No1 horse in the world – currently tied with the now-retired Gun Runner.
So what makes this sire of Dubawi, with dam Northern Mischief, so good?
The competitive spirit certainly plays a part – as does the cadence.
“She has a little weird quirk,” says famous Aussie trainer Richard Freedman.
“Most racehorses when they get to the gallop gait, their cadence stays about the same, but they lengthen stride to accelerate, so it’s about the lengthening of stride.
“Her cadence gets quicker. In a given 200 metres, she’ll take more strides.
“She just accelerates her cadence, and other horses just can’t do that.”
Dr Graeme Putt, a University of Auckland academic who has studied the science of racehorse success, agress.
Every minute Winx is in full motion she takes 170 strides. That’s 30 more than the average racehorse, with each one about seven metres in length.
It’s an unusual formula for a champion sprinter, especially when compared to the sport’s greats like Black Caviar and Phar Lap, each with a stride length close to 8.5m.
“Many think the horse with a bigger stride will always win,” says Putt.
“The extraordinary ability Winx has is her ability to change stride length and frequency at will that her current rivals don’t have,”.
“This means she can settle or accelerate at any time during a race. I think this makes her unique.”
Whatever the reason – Winx is a winner, no doubt about that.