Royal Ascot scout sounds out Winx owners
BRITISH racing officials will this week intensify attempts to lure Winx to Royal Ascot in June.
Nick Smith, Ascot's director of racing, will meet Winx's owners and trainer Chris Waller in Sydney before the mare returns in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on March 3.
Smith has been chasing Winx for the past two seasons and says she would be a near certainty in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m), the first race on the opening day of the royal meeting on June 19.
"If she goes (to Royal Ascot) it will be for the Queen Anne, which is a mile race but it rides more like a nine furlong (1800m) race," Smith said.
"She would be very strong favourite. We're (Europe) not replete with strong milers in the older horse category this year, most of the good three-year-olds have retired. She would probably find it the biggest open door that you could ask for in all honesty."
Winners of the Queen Anne include Frankel, Toronado and Ribchester while Australia's Haradasun, initially trained by Tony Vasil, won in 2008 when in Aidan O'Brien's care.
Smith says Winx, who is on a 22-race unbeaten streak, remains his priority.
"Obviously Winx is the top of the list," he said. "She's been the project for the last couple of years really.
"Chris made it very clear last year that a third Cox Plate was the priority, completely understandably. She has now been campaigned with a potential trip in mind.
"Chris has been pretty frank and upfront. We know where we are.
"The Chipping Norton Stakes is next after (last Saturday's) trial, then the George Ryder and then after the George Ryder, that's the key decision-making date."
Owners Peter Tighe and Debbie Kepitis were at Ascot in January and inspected the facilities during a race meeting.
Smith is fatalistic about the chances of attracting Winx to England, mindful of Waller's alternative of keeping her at home and chasing an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate in October.
"There's not much more that we can do," Smith said.
"We know there's a will at least to seriously consider travelling.
"I know the way they operate is one step at a time and they've been very clear that they don't want to commit to anything until after the George Ryder.
"I'd say things are looking pretty optimistic, pretty positive.
"We have the relationship and the conversation has been ongoing for 12 months.
"We know Chris is taking this very seriously.
"He came over a few years ago with Brazen Beau, who ran second in the 2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and he decided then that he's not going to come back on the basis of wishful thinking.
"If he comes, it will be a serious chance and, of course, Winx is that horse."
Several Australian sprinters including Redkirk Warrior, Redzel, Merchant Navy, Trapeze Artist, In Her Time and Supido are in contention for both the King's Stand Stakes and Diamond Jubilee.