Global Horse Racing: Winx, McCraken, Black Heart Bart
Extremes of weather in North America and Australia have played havoc with the racing calendar this week — but still there will be no shortage of talent or discussion when it comes to top horses.
Aqueduct and Penn National were both cancelled when a snowstorm hit the north east coast of the United States late in the week.
It is the total opposite in Australia, with officials being forced to postpone the 10-race card scheduled for Randwick this Saturday following a forecast heatwave, with temperatures expected to soar to 40C.
This means that local champion Winx will now have to wait until Monday to make her long-awaited Autumn reappearance. She will be attempting her 14th consecutive win when lining up in the G2 Apollo Stakes, over 1,400m, at Sydney’s premier track.
Although the Apollo is merely a G2, it will hold the sporting interest of the country, particularly as its rescheduling places it in a TV slot shortly before the 6pm main news broadcast. Winx should have the class to win, though the distance is undeniably short of her favourite.
Melbourne’s Orr Stakes is the first G1 of the year, Black Heart Bart was too strong for the 12-strong line-up at Caulfield.
For all the rearranging of fixtures, and unpredictability of the weather, America could still provide the biggest talking point when nine runners tackle the G3 Sam F Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Florida.
It is quite possible that one unbeaten colt, McCraken, could emerge as a hot favourite for the G1 Kentucky Derby after this important stepping stone to the Classic.
McCraken is three wins from three starts as a juvenile, all of them at Churchill Downs. He will jump from gate 8, second widest in the Sam F Davis, and a positive performance would give his Classic prospects a real boost.
The Ian Wilkes-trained colt is currently 11th in Derby qualification standings.
No Dozing and Fact Finding are his two biggest dangers in an intriguing three-year-old contest that will dominate racing conversation this weekend.