Secretariat spin to sort out Winx rivals
INTERNATIONAL opposition to Winx's bid for a fourth successive Cox Plate victory is likely to come via a familiar source - the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington, Chicago, on Sunday week.
The Group 1 race that catapulted Adelaide to Moonee Valley victory in 2014 and Highland Reel to third place behind Winx a year later is the pathway for several Aidan O'Brien contenders.
With less than 100 days until Winx tries to become the first horse to win four Cox Plates, O'Brien has seven nominations for the 2000m Secretariat for three-year-olds.
The Irish trainer hopes one or more of Amedeo Modigliani, Kew Gardens, Rostropovich, Seahenge, The Pentagon, Threeandfourpence and Zabriskie can earn the right to travel to Moonee Valley.
O'Brien's Adelaide and Highland Reel both won the Secretariat and The Taj Mahal ran second in the Secretariat last season before snaring the Group 2 Zipping Classic at Sandown.
The October 27 Cox Plate is expected to feature Godolphin's Benbatl and other raiders after the international picture became clearer at the weekend.
Poet's Word, one of 13 international stars invited to challenge Winx, is unlikely to travel after his victory in the 2400m King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Sunday.
Sir Michael Stoute's star overcame stablemate Crystal Ocean in a desperate finish and is now joint second favourite for the 2400m Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, Paris, on October 7.
Another option open to Stoute is the 2400m Breeders' Cup Turf on November 3 at Churchill Downs, Kentucky.
Winx is Ladbrokes' $1.55 favourite for the Cox Plate ahead of Humidor ($15), who chased home the mare last spring.
Benbatl ($26) is one of seven horses, including Happy Clapper and Galio Chop, on the third line of betting while Mick Price's Grunt, who galloped with stablemate Mighty Boss at Caulfield on Saturday has eased to $41.00.
Six horses have already arrived at the Werribee quarantine station, including Hush Winter, Tosen Basil and Admire Robson.
The bulk of international runners will land in late September in readiness for the October 20 Caulfield Cup and November 6 Melbourne Cup.
Meanwhile, the Aquanita doping inquiry is likely to drag into 2019 in what shapes as another expensive legal exercise for the industry and participants.
As it stands now, the earliest the case will be heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is from December 12.
And while there is admirable optimism among some of the legal counsel that the hearing will be much shorter than the scheduled two weeks, there is already frustration over the delay.
All five legal representatives involved in the directions hearing agreed hearing the case during the spring carnival was not practical - nor desirable.
And then there were other considerations, such as those of Tim McHenry, who acts for Robert Smerdon and Stuart Webb.
McHenry told VCAT's Heather Ludrick he was unavailable from October because his Port Douglas accommodation business then enters the peak season.
Smerdon, Webb, Liam Birchley and Tony Vasil are appealing penalties imposed by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board over the alleged incidents.
The Lovani sting took place on October 7 last year.