Sport

Favourites satisfied with Cox Plate barrier draw

James McDonald rides Hartnell to the barrier for the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington earlier this month.
James McDonald rides Hartnell to the barrier for the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington earlier this month. JULIAN SMITH

CONNECTIONS of the two favourites for Saturday's $3 million Cox Plate emerged from today's barrier draw at Moonee Valley with confidence unabated.

With defending champion Winx to jump from No.3 and emerging Godolphin superstar Hartnell in No.7, both camps were satisfied their chances had not been harmed by the draw for a 10-horse field with no natural pacemaker.

Winx's jockey, Hugh Bowman, told racing.com he was "satisfied” with barrier three.

"There's no real designated leader in the field, so someone's going to have to take it up,” he said.

"From barrier three, I jump from a position where I'm not going to be committed to be making a decision I don't want to make.

"Then again, if it is a really muddily run race and I'm stuck inside horses, it could get awkward for me.

"Ultimately for me, it's about keeping it simple and having the horse comfortable, and if that's the case, she'll be very hard to beat.”

After galloping Winx at the Valley on Saturday morning, trainer Chris Waller sent her around again this morning over 1600m at Breakfast with the Best and was pleased with what he saw.

"Everything's gone to plan with us and that's the most important thing. She is going well,” he said.

"Hugh said she's a natural getting around the track, she just loves it.”

Reaction to the barrier draw was swift with Winx firming from $2 into $1.90 and Hartnell drifting from $2.80 to $3.

Hartnell's trainer John O'Shea was suitably respectful when asked if he was concerned Winx had drawn the three alley.

"I'm concerned she's in the race,” he quipped.

Queried on tactics, O'Shea expected jockey James McDonald would concentrate on getting Hartnell relaxed as he did in taking out the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1, 2000m) by more than three lengths over subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Jameka.

"James was able to let him roll along a little bit for the first couple of furlongs (in the Turnbull) and get him to a nice rhythm,” O'Shea said.

"From gate seven we don't have to be bustling - we can just take out time and have a similar approach.”

"Both him and Bowman are great riders. Both (horses) will get their chances to be effective.”

Topics:  chris waller cox plate hartnell hugh bowman james mcdonald john oshea winx


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