Can Humidor beat Winx?

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LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE

The betting for Saturday’s Group 1 Seppelt Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington suggests the only possible obstacle to champion mare Winx securing a 21st-straight victory is Humidor.

On Friday morning Chris Waller’s champion mare was rated a $1.20 chance to continue her winning ways, while the Darren Weir-trained Humidor was $4.80 with the third pick Ventura Storm $26.

Significantly, if Humidor starts the race at $4.80, it will be the shortest price a horse has started against Winx since Black Heart Bart finished second behind her in a three-horse field in the 2016 Caulfield Stakes at the same price.

Despite winning all three starts this preparation in spectacular fashion, there are a few in racing starting to suggest that Winx is losing her air of invincibility.

The daughter of Street Cry made it hard for herself first-up in the Warwick Stakes when she missed the start by four lengths on a fast track that naturally made it tough for backmarkers but was still good enough to win.

Her jockey Hugh Bowman then probably made her task harder than it needed to be second-up but she was still good enough to win from a seemingly impossible position in the Chelmsford Stakes.

Her rivals really poured the pressure on her last start in the mid stages of the George Main Stakes and she responded by winning in the fastest time she has ever recorded over 1600m at Randwick, comfortably beating the subsequent Epsom winner Happy Clapper with a significant margin back to third.

Following two encouraging runs at 1400m, Humidor signalled he was a force to be reckoned with this preparation with a stunning last-to-first victory in the Makybe Diva Stakes in which he blew away multiple Group 1 winners Hartnell and Black Heart Bart by more than three lengths.

If Humidor’s last preparation is a guide, he may be even better suited stepping up to 2000m in the Turnbull.

IN THE RED CORNER – HUMIDOR

Using Punting Form’s benchmark system, which measures a horse’s time against thousands of previous races over a set track and distance and then adjusts according to the track conditions on the day, Humidor produced a career-peak performance when he won the Makybe Diva in a time 17.5 lengths faster than the average.

Significantly, both of Humidor’s best performances were at Flemington off the back of fast speeds.

In the Makybe Diva the field went 13.3 lengths faster than average for the first half of the race due to Hey Doc racing fiercely on the speed, with Humidor sitting last at a speed that was still 9.6 lengths faster than average.

In his other big Group 1 victory, when he defeated Jameka in the Australian Cup, he recorded a time 13.7 lengths faster than average after running the first half of the race 10.4 lengths faster than benchmark.

It needs to be highlighted that in both of these victories Humidor was perfectly ridden by Damian Lane to maximise his performance.

At the end of the day, these numbers spell out that Humidor is a serious Group 1 animal and Winx aside, is prominent in the conversation as one of the best horses in the country between 1600 and 2000m.

IN THE BLUE CORNER – WINX

When you look at the numbers it’s hard to back up a theory that Winx isn’t going as well as she was 12 months ago.

In the 2016 George Main she appeared to win more comfortably than she did in this year’s edition because the race was run significantly slower, which allowed her to travel more comfortably.

In fact, looking at the numbers, it would suggest Winx is going at least as well, if not better than she was a year ago.

Waller has a stunning ability to get Winx peaking on grand final day; in her two Cox Plate victories and Doncaster Mile win she recorded a time better than 20 lengths faster than average, staggering numbers.

Winx’s strength is an ability to maintain her supreme effort for longer than her rivals. In the 2015 Cox Plate and 2016 Doncaster Mile she went more than five lengths faster than average for the second half of the races despite running the first half of the races 14 lengths faster than benchmark.

It was her eight-length win in last year’s Cox Plate, a race run at a brutal 19 lengths faster than average, which really highlighted why she is so good.

The faster they want to run the race, the better she is suited because she can simply handle extreme pressure and maintain a sustained gallop for longer than her rivals.

Notably though, Saturday’s Turnbull Stakes isn’t Winx’s grand final, so Bowman will want to give Winx as soft a run as possible.

THE TACTICS

Despite the small field, Team Williams has already announced that Assign will lead with Sir Isaac Newton set to also go forward. Assign is a horse that likes to roll along at fast speeds in his races, having gone between 6.9 to 16.5 lengths faster than average at his past four runs at the distance.

A likely genuine speed is encouraging as it breaks up the field, reducing the chance of horses being held up and suffering interference and makes the race a genuine test, which suits the two best horses, in this case Humidor and Winx.

I expect Bowman’s focus early to be navigating the potential road blocks in Skyfire and Magicool and trying to get Winx away from the rail from barrier two.

Lane will likely position Humidor on Winx’s back and follow Bowman wherever he goes.

THE VERDICT

Humidor may well provide Winx with her toughest test this preparation and beat the third horse by a significant margin but I can’t see him beating her.

She is simply too professional, too versatile and too good and without something unforseen going horribly wrong will produce what is needed to win again.

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