Bronzed honour: Winx statue set to be unveiled at Rosehill

Eagle-eyed racegoers at Rosehill Gardens for the Silver Slipper meeting would have noticed significant work taking place near the Might And Power entrance to the course. And with good reason.

This column has been told the unveiling of a statue paying homage to wonder mare Winx is only weeks away.

The area being excavated for the unveiling of the Winx statue at Rosehill Gardens.

A tribute sure to encourage a few extra punters through the gates, the sculpture could be opened as soon as Coolmore Classic day to co-incide with the first day of the Golden Slipper carnival.

The statue is being crafted by the renowned Tanya Bartlett, who created the three-metre high sculpture of The Yearling and The Leader which sits outside Inglis’ Riverside complex at Warwick Farm.

Trainer Chris Waller and jockey Hugh Bowman are expected to be on hand for the statue unveiling, which will sit outside the Grand Pavilion.

Given Winx was trained at Rosehill and one of her most devastating performances came at the track during the 2017 George Ryder Stakes, it was only fitting any bronzed honour be erected in Sydney’s west.

The Moonee Valley Racing Club last year unveiled a Winx statue outside the venue of her four Cox Plate triumphs.

The new grandstand at Royal Randwick, set to be named after the mare which finished her career with 33 straight wins, is also progressing well as racing officials use 2021 as the year to fittingly honour one of the best horses Australian racing has seen.

Van Gestel on lookout for new deputy

Racing NSW’s deputy chief steward Wade Birch has handed in his resignation.

Birch, who has been Marc Van Gestel’s offsider on the Sydney panel since April 2019, is tipped to be announced in a role with the Greyhound Welfare Integrity Commission. Birch’s final meeting will be on Golden Slipper day at Rosehill next month.

It will leave Racing NSW on the lookout for another experienced hand in Sydney to help guide the panel alongside Van Gestel.

Plate serves up a classic

Two things on the Oakleigh Plate: firstly, how good was it as a spectacle? Seventeen horses finishing within a length of each other under handicap conditions, only half-a-length separating the first five across the line.

The dead heat between the promising Portland Sky and Celebrity Queen had stories abounding apart from the suggestion it was the first dead heat in a Melbourne group 1 for 20 years: Matt Laurie’s career highlight, apprentice Teo Nugent’s first major and the wonderful image of Willie Pike desperately throwing everything at his mare in the final stride.

Portland Sky and Celebrity Queen dead-heat for first place in Saturday’s Oakleigh Plate.Credit:Getty

Now, for the negatives.

The Oakleigh Plate is quintessential Australian racing, a big field in a handicap over a sprint distance. In the era of multi-million dollar marketing races, how has this race been left standing still with prize money anchored at $500,000?

And just like the dead heat debate with Hang Man and Defibrillate at Caulfield a few weeks ago, every time I watched the lateral camera angle on replay the more and more I became confused about the result. The camera is clearly past the winning post.

Not every racetrack around Australia is going to have the main camera aligned with the winning post, but surely at one of the country’s best tracks the punters deserve better.

McDonald delaying Slipper call

James McDonald is holding fire on his decision about which horse to partner in the Golden Slipper.

McDonald has the unbeaten Stay Inside, a second pick for the world’s richest two-year-old race, as a clear favourite, but urged Chris Waller’s Home Affairs to victory in the Silver Slipper at Rosehill.

One of McDonald’s other hopes before the weekend, beaten Blue Diamond favourite Enthaar, had her price more than double for the Golden Slipper after hooning through the first half of the race and scrambling into sixth.

How often do you see a horse under the veterinary microscope all week run below market expectations?

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