Girl power: Why mares have edge in superstar stakes
GLEN Boss, the champion jockey who rode Makybe Dvia to three successive Melbourne Cup wins, has an interesting take on why there has been such a plethora of champion mares this century.
"The one thing that strikes me about these great mares from Sunline, Makybe Diva, Black Caviar and now Winx is how big and strong they are,'' Boss said.
"They are big 'girls', not just tall, they are strong and heavy, and quite muscular.
"When I was back in Sydney a few weeks ago I was talking about this to Hughie (Bowman) and we were comparing what it was like riding the great mares.
"Hughie said Winx is just bigger, stronger and faster than them and Makybe Diva was a bit like that, too.
"When she won her first Melbourne Cup in 2003, Makybe Diva was only about 470kg but when she won her third (2005) she was about 540kg. She had developed and put on a lot of muscle.''
Boss added what has exacerbated the issue in the last two decades is how quickly the top colts head to stud duties or international campaigns.
"You get a lot of these good colts being retired as three-year-olds or sold to race overseas so it is left up to the mares,'' the champion jockey said.
"I remember when there was Octagonal, Nothin' Leica Dane and Filante, all colts up against Saintly (gelding) when they were three-year-olds (1995-96) and they all raced on as older horses. You don't see that so much now.
"Lonhro and So You Think raced on as older horses, although So You Think was eventually sold to race in Europe.
"The other point is that these great mares have been so well managed by their trainers and they have stayed sound for most of their race careers.''
The Hall of Fame jockey is back in town for one ride on Ventura Storm in the Group 1 $2 million Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Boss, who has ridden 84 Group 1 winners to be equal eighth with Neville Sellwood on the all-time list - with only one active jockey, Damien Oliver (110), above him - won his only Sydney Cup on Makybe Diva in 2004.
"Makybe Diva did not win a race between her first Melbourne Cup and the Sydney Cup the following autumn,'' Boss said.
"I remember she was beaten on a firm track in The BMW (third to Grand Zulu) and they sent her back home. But then it started raining so the decision was made to run in the Sydney Cup. She was a great two-miler and was just too good for them.''
Ventura Storm, trained by David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig, is not as good as Makybe Diva but he may not need to be to win the Sydney Cup on Saturday.
Boss is bullish about Ventura Storm's chances after analysing the stayer's close second to Sir Charles Road in the Chairman's Stakes last week.
"I thought Ventura Storm's run was very good under a big weight (59kg) in the Chairman's,'' Boss said. "He drops to 53.5kg and I think the key to riding him is to get him into a nice rhythm early and put him in the race. The stable is very happy with the horse, he's a genuine stayer and I believe he is a top three chance.''
Lloyd takes eyes off Cup to laud Winx
LLOYD Williams, chasing a fifth Sydney Cup with either Almandin or Aloft, declared he has not seen a better racehorse than champion mare Winx.
The Hall of Fame owner doesn't have a runner in Sydney's richest race of the autumn carnival, the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday, which gives him the opportunity to appreciate Winx's bid for racing immortality.
"You mean the 'Winx Stakes','' Williams said when asked his opinion of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. "Our stable doesn't have a runner in the Queen Elizabeth and although I won't be at Randwick, I can tell you I will be very interested to watch Winx.
"She is the definition of a champion.''
Williams, recognised as an authoritative voice in racing, has had a storied career over more than 50 years in the sport. He's seen all the champions during this period and is very well qualified to make comparisons, so his lofty rating of Winx is significant.
"Winx is wonderful, a great champion - she is as good as I've seen,'' Williams said.
"Kingston Town was a great horse but what Winx has done to date is remarkable.
"In racing, winning over a trip is harder than winning over sprint distances. You need to train them up every time.
"I know how hard it is to keep a distance horse going so every time I see (trainer) Chris Waller, I pat him on the back because he has done a super job with Winx.
"This mare is extraordinary, she has been trained so well by Chris and it takes a trainer to make a champion. It is remarkable that she has kept winning and sustained this very high level for three years now.''
Winx is at $1.15 with TAB Fixed Odds to make it 25 wins in succession, equalling Black Caviar's record for consecutive wins.
Then 40 minutes after Winx's race, Williams is represented by Almandin ($4.20f) and Aloft ($8) in the Group 1 $2 million Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m).
This is a race Williams has had plenty of success in previously, having won his first Sydney Cup with Major Drive, part-owned with the late Kerry Packer back in 1987.
Williams-owned stayers Gallic (2007), Mourayan (2013) and Gallante (2016) have also won the Randwick two-miler.
The Sydney Cup has attracted a near-capacity field of 19 starters but only three have won previously over the stamina-sapping test of 3200m - both of Williams's stayers and veteran Who Shot Thebarman, a stablemate of Winx.
Almandin won the 2016 Melbourne Cup at 3200m and goes into today's race in top form after winning the Tancred Stakes last start.
Similarly, Aloft is also a last-start winner having taken out the Roy Higgins Quality at Flemington. He has also won over the "two miles", taking out the Queen's Vase first-up from a spell at the 2015 Royal Ascot carnival.
Williams said punters shouldn't read too much into the jockey switch as he has taken Kerrin McEvoy off Almandin to ride Aloft at 51.5kg. Damien Oliver goes back on the topweight.
"Aloft just took a while to acclimatise when he first came here so he hasn't had a lot of racing but he is going well now,'' Williams said.
"We haven't beaten the handicapper or anything, it is his right weight, but when you only have 51.5kg it helps in two mile races
"We are at both ends of the scale with Almandin topweight (57kg). But there is nothing wrong with our two.
"As it stands I'm very happy with them and it doesn't worry me much if we have a firm track.''