A very competitive Sydney Cup in prospect at Randwick this afternoon assembles a capacity field comprising local and overseas stayers headed in the weights by 2015 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin.
And it is Almandin that holds pole position on weight adjusted Timeform ratings, but if successful he join a rare group of horses to have won a Sydney and Melbourne Cup outside of the same year or season. Carbine (1890, Lord Cardigan (1904), Straight Draw (1958), Galilee (1967) and Makybe Diva (2004) the only horses to have done so, however Almandin will become the first of the group to win the Sydney Cup two seasons after his Cup victory.
That aside, Team Williams almost bought off a similar coup with 2007 Melbourne Cup winner Efficient who was an unlucky second in the 2012 Sydney Cup which was four seasons after his Flemington triumph.
A former European galloper, Almandin has been sparingly raced with the now seven-year-old having faced the starter just 20 times for seven wins including last start in the group one Tancred Stakes at weight for age over 2400m.
Almandin comes into the Sydney Cup under handicap conditions with top weight of 57kgs – a drop of 2kgs from his Tancred Stakes win but an attractive weight all the same considering his staying record.
Fourth up from a spell this afternoon, Almandin was desperately unlucky behind Harlem in the group one Australian Cup (2000m) two starts back but appreciated getting out to 2400m last start in the Tancred Stakes at Rosehill.
On that occasion he sat forward in a muddling early pace but outstayed his rivals over the concluding stages with connections predicting further improvement to come this afternoon.
Almandin will aim to become just the fifth horse to win the Tancred Stakes – Sydney Cup double, Tie The Knot in 1999 being the last and coincidently he was also weighted on 57kgs in his Sydney Cup victory.
Owned by Team Williams who have made a habit of winning the Melbourne Cup, Almandin if successful today will be their fifth winner of the Sydney Cup, Galante in 2016 being their most recent success.
Drawn low in five and with Damien Oliver back in the saddle, Almandin will get every chance to outstay his rivals.
The Richard Freeman trained Auvray, Lord Fandango, Sir Charles Road and Pres Stwick round out the Timeform weight adjusted main chances.
Auvray has been a revelation since joining the Freedman stable and comes into the race this afternoon fifth run back from a spell but in peak form according to his Timeform ratings profile making small jumps at each of his runs back this campaign.
After an impressive win in the Sky High Stakes two runs back, he faced his toughest challenge last run in the group one Tancred Stakes running a creditable sixth but just over two lengths from Almandin.
However he meets Almandin five kilos better for that effort and if that converts to a reduced margin between the pair at 3200m he should make the finish interesting. Auvray looks a strong value hope at the odds.
The same can be said of Lord Fandango whose campaign has been aimed at this race but became derailed last start in the Manion Cup (2400m) at Rosehill when a disappointing seventh with no obvious excuses.
That run aside, his previous form was sound including a handy effort in the Australian Cup finishing just behind Almandin.
It is worth recounting Lord Fandango’s excellent form in the spring that saw him win the Herbert Power Stakes and finish and unlucky fourth in the Caulfield Cup.
Last Saturdays Chairman’s Quality winner Sir Charles Road also commands healthy respect, especially coming off a lead up race with solid credentials for the Sydney Cup.
The lightly raced New Zealand stayer has excellent staying form in the Shaky Isles including a close up luckless sixth in the Auckland Cup over 3200m before displaying plenty of courage last Saturday running to a new Timeform peak.
Sir Charles Road tumbles six kilos here and will run this trip right out.
The unknown is the Japanese stayer Pres Stwick who comes here with strong staying form in his homeland. One big advantage today is the firm conditions not to mention Joao Moreira in the saddle.
Pres Stwick has raced against some of the best stayers in Japan and comes here off a sixth placing in the Diamond Stakes over 3400m at Tokyo behind Fame Game in February, his first run for 2018.
At his last run in 2017, Pres Stwick was placed in the Nippon Sho Stayers Stakes at Nakayama over 3600m behind talented stayer Albert.
It all depends on how Pres Stwick has settled in, but there is no denying his staying talent and should be kept very safe in this line up.
Enjoy the race.
Further history awaits at Randwick on Saturday, picture ThoroughbredNEWS
Timeform Preview - 2018 Queen Elizabeth Stakes
When former darling of the turf, the unbeaten champion mare Black Caviar retired after 25 exhilarating winning performances, it would have been hard to imagine that just 14 months later a filly named Winx would win on debut at Warwick Farm then after nine more starts embark on an unbeaten winning sequence to match her.
Victory today will not only see Winx match Black Caviar’s unbeaten winning streak – the longest flat sequence of wins in a major racing jurisdiction but she will also extend her record of group one wins on the flat to 18, two clear of American champion John Henry who held the record for many years at 16. (Hungarian mare Kincsem won 57 consecutive races in the 1870’s)
Timeform ratings, the only true measurement of global racehorse performance since 1948, have Winx rated at 134, just 2 pounds short of Black caviar on 136, a figure that saw Black caviar equal top Timeform rated filly or mare in Timeform history – an honour she shares with Habibti and Allez France. It would fitting for Winx to join that trio.
That’s about the only goal for Winx yet to achieve however this afternoon might present her the opportunity to do just that as she is opposed to one of the strongest fields she has met to date but not on her preferred soft state of track either.
In a strange twist of events, Winx goes for her 25th straight win on the day that last saw her suffer defeat in the 2015 ATC Oaks when runner up to Gust Of Wind in the hands of world champion rider Joao Moreira.
Winx’s rivals this afternoon will be no pushover. She is going to have to close to her absolute best as the field contains last Saturday’s Doncaster Mile winner Happy Clapper (Timeform rated 129), multiple 2000m group one winner Gailo Chop (125), Australian Cup winner Humidor (129), the horse who pushed her to the limit in her third Cox Plate win and former Japanese galloper Ambitious (122).
Winx will be third up from a spell today as she attempts to become the only mare to win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes back to back and repeat her winning effort last year coming straight off the George Ryder Stakes rising 400m in trip to win over 2000m – a feat only previously Lonhro had achieved in 2003.
Winx will join Grand Armee (2004/05) and Tulloch (1960/61) as the only back to back winners of the race since it was introduced in 1954.
In a race where there looks to be more speed than in a normal weight for age contest, Winx is expected to settle as usual worse than midfield and then gradually work into the race in the hands of Hugh Bowman who has piloted the mare in 22 races for 21 victories.
Her form coming into the race is as good as ever, running to a Timeform rating of 132+ winning the group one Chipping Norton Stakes over 1600m first up then defeating a strong field in the George Ryder that included Happy Clapper and Kementari after dropping back 100m in distance.
Now she gets back to a more suitable distance and at the track where she has won most of her races - 18 in total. A repeat of either of her last two Timeform ratings sees her home – it will simply be a matter of what the margin will be.
Humidor who gave Winx a fright in the Cox Plate last year looms as the main danger again, especially coming off a 7 day back up as was the case in the Cox Plate.
Two starts back Humidor regained winning form taking out the Blamey Stakes over 1600m at Flemington running to a Timeform rating of 121 then last start found the line strongly, after a chequered passage, in the Doncaster Mile behind Happy Clapper running to 122, still 7 pounds short of his Cox Plate run.
However the step up to 2000m is going to be bonus for Humidor and he presents nicely off a quick back up here as the one to make most improvement coming into the race on his preferred firm ground.
There has always been a doubt over Happy Clapper getting a strong 2000m as he steps up for a third crack at the Queen Elizabeth Stakes finishing third in 2016 and fifth last year behind Winx.
However he did run a solid second to Tosen Stardom in the group one Emirates Classic over 2000m in the spring running to 119 after another drubbing by Winx in the Cox Plate. But it is fair to say his 2000m Timeform ratings have generally been five to ten pounds below his form over shorter trips.
His statistical record of two seconds and a third placing from seven attempts beyond 1600m also supports the ratings hypothesis.
In an interesting aside, if today’s race goes to script, Happy Clapper will wrest the mantle from Hartnell as the horse who Winx has beaten the most – eight occasions.
Gailo Chop and Ambitious round out the multiples chances.