Apollo Stakes: Forget the gimmicks, racing needs champions like Winx
Published: February 10, 2017 - 6:11PM
Winx is the best drug-free racehorse in the world because US superstars Arrogate and California Chrome were loaded up on home territory with Lasix, the diuretic and performance enhancer.
The situation again came to light when Arrogate scored in the recent Pegasus World Cup when horses that didn't have Lasix in their system were allowed a five-pound (2.5kilograms) allowance. Only one, outsider Eregon, took advantage. Alas a tow truck would have been more useful to Eregon as he didn't complete the event.
The Australian Turf Club and Racing NSW are set to follow the Pegasus model, but not the Lasix allowance. Lasix is barred on race day in Australia. Surely winning without it should carry more kudos than dirt triumphs with it. Yet the recent Longines World's Best Racehorse assessment rated it superior, with Arrogate (134) and California Chrome (133) being placed above Winx (130), which was named best grass horse.
The ratings are compiled under the auspices of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities by officials and handicappers representing the five continents, who compile the order by agreeing on the rating for each horse.
Even US promoters admit Lasix gives about a two-length advantage, a start Arrogate possibly could have comfortably given away in some of the races reviewed. Also, American horses have done well without it in other countries.
Still grass has more substance than dirt because of the stricter drug enforcement in jurisdictions, including Australia, where, in Sydney anyway, industry leaders are getting onto the Pegasus bandwagon with a huge prize for The Everest, introduced over the Randwick 1200m next spring for a $1.8 million entry fee for three years.
My personal poll conducted last week had seven against over three in favour. A major bookmaker decreed 100-1 about it ever being staged, but then added: "Don't use my name."
Self-funding was a major point in favour, but the media exposure was also emphasised and supported by Ray Paulick, who has an influential racing internet site in the US. Perhaps betting turnover was down on the Pegasus, but Paulick reported it was highlighted on all the major media outlets, which only usually concentrate on the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup.
So far, The Everest has ticked the publicity box at a time when racing is looking for a saviour, even greater than Winx.
Even racing on the streets of London is being mooted. Me? I'd rather bet at Birdsville.
Saturday's meetings at Royal Randwick (now postponed due to the extreme heat) and Caulfield are what the Aussie turf is all about: top major events and excellent supports. Maybe Winx had been unbackable in the Apollo Stakes at Randwick in any case, despite the strong field, which included the outstanding Hartnell.
I tipped Hartnell to down the mare in the last Cox Plate. The result didn't come as a surprise but it was so easy. Seeking an answer, trainer John O'Shea was approached. "Moonee Valley is her track, not Hartnell's," he replied.
Now O'Shea wasn't suggesting Hartnell was going to prove superior to Winx on any circuit, even the streets of London, but he would have been better at Randwick. Would I have had an interest on him today? Nah, Winx would not have been trumped, a situation that arose when the US president was enticed into buying a horse.
Paulick related on ABC News Radio's Hoof On The Till that Donald Trump wouldn't pay unless it was called "DJTrump". Connections agreed. He didn't settle anyway and "DJTrump" never raced.