By Ray Hickson
The excitement of being a part of Winx’s farewell almost outweighs the daunting task of trying to beat her for He’s Eminent’s trainer Sir Mark Todd.
And as encouraged as he was by He’s Eminent’s plucky second to Avilius in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes, Todd says taking on Winx is a whole new ball game.
He’s realistic too, he’s not going into the Group 1 $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) thinking an upset is on the cards.
But Todd is confident He’s Eminent can give her something to catch.
“The mare is a freak, she has no weak links, we can only go and run our own race and see what happens,’’ he said.
“We’re hoping for a good track and if he can run like he did last time, and improve on that, that’s all we can hope for.’’
James McDonald took the Ranvet Stakes by the scruff of the neck early on He’s Eminent and it took a super performance from Avilius to run him down – and Todd suggests if nothing else wants to lead the Queen Elizabeth the five-year-old will take it up again.
Todd said he couldn’t have been happier with the effort on an unsuitably wet track, his first run since August and with the horse coming off a year out of form.
He's Eminent runs second to Avilius in the Ranvet Stakes
“He had quite a hard run in the wet but he bounced through it really well,’’ he said.
“It was his first run for seven months and he’s done everything we could have hoped since then. He’s clearly improved and he’s in very good form.
“Physically he’s looking better, he’s hardened up, he had to improve for the run.’’
Todd rode He’s Eminent on Monday morning at Canterbury, taking the entire around a couple of laps of the grass track at a light gallop.
He’s Eminent’s Ranvet Stakes effort earned him respect. Prior to his Australian debut, the UK import was as much as $101 with TAB in the Queen Elizabeth all-in market.
The son of Frankel is now considered the mare’s major threat, a $15 chance as Winx again stifles the market as a $1.06 favourite.
What’s fitting for Winx’s finale is that she won’t be taking on easybeats – although Avilius is in the paddock she’ll still meet Happy Clapper one more time, obviously He’s Eminent, classy Kiwi mare Danzdanzdance and possibly another old rival Hartnell.
Todd, a seven-time Olympic eventer, is in awe of what Winx has been able to achieve and says we shouldn’t underestimate the impact she’s had across the world.
“She’s a super horse, she’s won 32 races on the trot and that doesn’t happen very often,’’ he said.
“She’s captured the imagination of racing worldwide. It’s brilliant for racing when you get something like this.
"The owners, Chris Waller and the whole team are to be hugely congratulated for the way they have campaigned this mare. It’s just phenomenal.’’