Chris Waller is accustomed to the highs and lows of racing but a week after Winx’s latest romp reverberated around the equine world, a return to Randwick looms as a particularly challenging anti-climax.
Sydney’s supremely focused premier trainer admitted even he can struggle to adapt to a race day build-up when the world’s greatest horse on turf is not a factor.
“I’ve found after Winx races, especially in a bigger race, you tend to be a little bit casual and a little bit complacent,” Waller said, before hastily adding: “I’m talking a small percentage.”
Waller drew a comparison between important dates on the Melbourne spring carnival calendar to illustrate the super mare’s importance to his stable.
“It’s quite strange because you always get a sense of anxiety and pressure with any horse racing but Winx takes it to a whole level of intensity that I’ve never experienced,” Waller said.
“It’s like Steve Smith playing in an Ashes test and then turning up to play local cricket and being expected to score 200 runs.”
Waller said he had discussed his predicament with jockey Hugh Bowman, who guided Winx to her 17th consecutive win – and 12th Group One – in last Saturday’s $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“He’s learned to train himself to stay focused not just for that race day. You can take your eye off the ball a touch and this Saturday I’m aware of that.”
Waller has eight runners listed on the card although Preferment will be scratched from the Group Three Japan Racing Association Plate if the track is not upgraded to soft.
“We’ve got a nice team of completely non-pressure type horses but it’s still important to owners and the punters. We’ll be all systems go,” he said.
Waller has two chances in the 10-strong Group One All Aged Stakes field, and was restrained when weighing up McCreery ($8) and Japonisme ($26) against Luxbet.com favourite, the Kris Lees-trained Le Romain ($3.60).
“Our horses haven’t been set specifically for the race. We’re trying Japonisme over 1400 and McCreery’s coming back from the mile. We’ve put blinkers on him to try and keep him sharp.
“If it’s heavy like it is at the moment it’ll be a tough 1400 and it will suit McCreery. Japonisme hasn’t shown his best on those types of tracks.”
Winx has recovered well from her Queen Elizabeth Stakes exploits and was settled at a spelling farm.
Winx underwent a range of routine X-rays and scans on Tuesday and received the all-clear.
“It’s good to know she’s going to the paddock with no issues. Everything looks nice and clean and healthy,” Waller said.