Chris Waller’s wonder mare Winx is the headline nominee for this season’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes 2017, Racing NSW taking early entries for all the upcoming features of The Championships.
The jewel in the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival crown, The Championships run across the opening two Saturdays in April and feature eight Group 1 races.
The richest and most anticipated of those is the $4 million Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on Day 2, April 8, which attracted 101 nominations.
Nominations for all of The Championships races were up on last year including the Queen Elizabeth Stakes from 96 in 2016.
“We are thrilled the overall number of nominations is up so strongly, and that so many races have increased entries from last year,” The Australian Turf Club’s CEO Darren Pearce said on Monday.
The Queen Elizabeth Stakes is the grand final autumn goal for the country’s best racehorse Winx who is already odds-on in futures betting on the weight-for-age showdown through Ladbrokes.com.au.
Last seen scoring her second Cox Plate triumph in a record eight length Moonee Valley win in October, the five-year-old daughter of Street Cry returns to racing this Saturday at Randwick in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m).
She has won her past 13 straight races and is after another stellar autumn after her brilliant efforts this time last year.
Winx rounded out her prep last autumn with a two length win under 56.5kg in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m).
This year she’ll bypass the Doncaster Mile where she’ll be out-weighted under the handicap conditions and instead focus attentions on the Queen Elizabeth Stakes the following weekend.
Waller – who has a total of 13 entries in 2017 – has prepared two previous ATC Queen Elizabeth Stakes winners in recent years with My Kingdom Of Fife (2011) and Reliable Man (2013).
Among Waller’s contingent that could accept to face their star stablemate include The Metropolitan runner-up Antonio Giuseppe who is a four-year-old son of Shocking, a promising half-brother to Criterion Comin’ Through, former Sydney Cup winner Who Shot Thebarman and this year’s early Sydney Cup favourite Kinema.
He has also kept his gun young filly Omei Sword in the mix for this year’s edition, the Golden Rose runner-up making a delayed return to racing on Apollo Stakes Day.
A minor muscle injury saw her scratched from last weekend’s Eskimo Prince Stakes and instead Omei Sword, also an early favourite for the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington in Melbourne on March 4, runs first-up on Saturday in the Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes (1200m).
After the Winx duo, the other most notable Queen Elizabeth Stakes nominee is the John O’Shea-trained Hartnell for the powerhouse Godolphin stable.
Hartnell is no stranger to showdowns with Winx and the Authorized six-year-old is set for one first-up in the Apollo Stakes.
From four clashes against the $9.3 million earner, Hartnell has suffered four losses for a combined losing margin of 26.2 lengths.
He was last seen finishing third in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over the two miles last November, prior to which he ran second to Winx in the Cox Plate on the back of his Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) success.
Hartnell has strong form at the Royal Randwick track as well including the import’s Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) – Hill Stakes (2000m) double last September.
Other key Queen Elizabeth Stakes nominations include The United States who was runner-up to Lucia Valentina in the race last autumn, Darren Weir’s three-time Group 1 winner Black Heart Bart who comes back in the CF Orr Stakes at Caulfield this Saturday and Emirates Stakes winner Awesome Rock.
Caulfield Cup winning mare Jameka is also in the mix as is the James Cummings-trained Victorian Derby winning More Than Ready colt Prized Icon.
Tony Pike’s New Zealand raider Sacred Elixir who was runner-up in the same Melbourne Cup Carnival classic last October was a notable omission from the nominations.
The 2017 Queen Elizabeth Stakes first acceptances close at midday (AEDT) on March 7 followed by the release of the final field of declarations on Tuesday April 4.