There was some serious Group One action in Australia on Saturday, starting with the highest-rated mare in the world and the best horse on turf, Winx, who continues to look bulletproof.
Chris Waller’s superstar extended her winning streak to 15(!!!), swimming through the mud at Randwick to take out the Group One Chipping Norton Stakes with ease, overcoming any fears over the wet conditions and justifying the trainer’s decision to run her.
Apparently, there was thought around that the heavy track might have made Winx a bit more vulnerable to her “rival” Hartnell, but instead it was he who raced wide and failed to handle the ground.
The Winx appreciation tour continues to the George Ryder Stakes, with the campaign culminating in the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes on Saturday, April 8.
It was the start of a two-country Group One double for jockey Hugh Bowman, who moved back a few pages in the phone book to partner Werther to victory in the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday. Now the rider just needs to work out if he can clear commitments to ride him in the Dubai Turf.
Down in Melbourne, Lindsay Park’s gun filly Catchy produced an explosive sprint to capture the Group One Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield. Check this out.
Jockey Craig Williams has compared her to Miss Finland, a five-time Group One winner at distances from the Golden Slipper (1,200m) to the Victoria Oaks (2,500m).
Not surprisingly, the Slipper is her next target and she’s now second favourite behind Gary Portelli’s boom filly She Will Reign.
It was an outstanding day for the David Hayes team, with Sheidel completing a Group One double in the Oakleigh Plate with Joao Moreira in the saddle.
The runner-up, stablemate Faatinah, is owned by Sheikh Hamdan and will now head to Dubai for the Al Quoz Sprint, where he’s likely to come up against Hong Kong sprinters Amazing Kids, Not Listenin’tome while Lucky Bubbles and Peniaphobia are also entered.
They just keep finding under the Magic Man! Sheidel showcases sustained speed to win the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate. pic.twitter.com/jbVxZ1WcoC— Racing.com (@Racing) February 25, 2017
Unfortunately for the Magic Man he went from chocolates to boiled lollies when returning home on Sunday.
He finished second on Able Friend to Tommy Berry and Helene Paragon in the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup while going winless for the first time at a Hong Kong meeting since April 3, 2016.
After the last. Joao Moreira draws a race day blank in Hong Kong for the first time since 3 April, 2016. pic.twitter.com/p4ErpAZZ99— David Morgan (@TheMorganGrind) February 26, 2017
The other Group One at Caulfield was won by Black Heart Bart, who is just making wins at the top level seem routine.
He’s the sort of horse you’d love to own – as honest as the day is long – with five Group One wins (and five Group One seconds) since joining the Darren Weir stable 12 months ago.
He's done it again! Black Heart Bart claims the fifth Group 1 of his career, winning the Futurity Stakes. pic.twitter.com/Zlhwl3T1eM— Racing.com (@Racing) February 25, 2017
There was a big meeting on offer in Qatar on Saturday with the US$1 million HH The Emir’s Trophy capping off the three-day HH The Emir’s Sword Festival at Al Rayyan.
The 2,400m contest is the country’s biggest thoroughbred race and it was won by locally trained outsider Chopin, who led all the way.
Ironically, the castoff started his career with Andreas Wohler and ran in Ruler Of The World’s Derby at Epsom in 2013 before being sold at a dispersal sale, and the horse he beat, Noor Al Hawa is trained by the German.
The horse who finished eighth, Now We Can, has a Hong Kong connection, owned by Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.
After the race, Chopin’s owner said he will now head to the Dubai World Cup.
In Japan, the highlight was the Group Two Nakayama Kinen and it was Neorealism who was too good.
The horse who beat Maurice in August’s Sapporo Kinen won his seventh race with connections now looking at options including a trip to Dubai (he’s entered for the World Cup and Sheema Classic) and the Group One Osaka Hai.
Speaking of Dubai, things heat up there this weekend for Super Saturday, a dress rehearsal ahead of the World Cup meeting on March 25, headlined by the Group One Al Maktoum Challenge Round Three (2,000m). Hong Kong sprinters Dundonnell and Fabulous One will compete in the Group Three Mahab Al Shimaal.
There was a scary situation in St Moritz with popular UK jockey George Baker ending up in intensive care following a nasty three-horse fall in the opening race at White Turf, with the rest of the meeting cancelled after a problem with the ice track.
Thankfully, Baker is awake and appears to have escaped without any serious damage.
Speaking of falls, have a look at this remarkable incident from an Australian harness racing meeting at Charlton in country Victoria on the weekend.
Something you won't see everyday pic.twitter.com/9F9Gvq4lbr— Michael Laird (@Micklaird) February 26, 2017
That’s one way to avoid a nasty fall. It brought back memories of this incident at Caulfield in 1996 when Andrew Payne ended up riding two horses.