The Australian Turf Club would love the chance to market Winx versus her multimillion-dollar upstart stablemate, a winner of six from seven.
The handicapper even did his part this week by allotting The Autumn Sun 55kg for the Doncaster Mile, an impost no three-year-old has won with since Tontonan saluted way back in 1974. It is a statistic not lost on the young horse’s connections.
McEvoy has a huge opinion of The Autumn Sun but, while he would welcome taking on the world’s best horse, stopped short of declaring he could do what no other jockey has been able to do in more than three years: beat Winx.
“I’ve always thought the 2000m could see him go to another level, and it would be great to take the wonder mare on over 2000m,” McEvoy told the Herald.
“It would add an extra element to the race if there was a young gun in the race like him taking her on.
“But in my opinion she’s still too brilliant. There are not many horses in the world that could beat her at 2000m.”
Arrowfield Stud’s John Messara, who bought into the Redoute’s Choice colt, has spoken publicly about not wanting to potentially ruin Winx’s last hurrah.
Lonhro and Octagonal were both defeated in their final race starts in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, long before the race was jacked up to $4 million in prizemoney.
Messara made no apologies for dodging Winx, but also kept the door slightly ajar.
Losing to Winx would not impact on The Autumn Sun’s stud credentials, Messara said.
The Autumn Sun will run Saturday week, then likely push on to the Rosehill Guineas a fortnight later – his first trip over 2000m – then weigh up whether he tackles the Doncaster, where he is the $3.50 early favourite with bookies, or the Queen Elizabeth.
“I don’t think we can beat her,” was Messara’s simple explanation.
“I’m not tempted to take her on unless it’s absolutely necessary.
“He’s a great colt, there’s no question about that, but there’s not a horse in the world who can beat her – she’s nearly impossible to beat over 1600m to 2000m.
“I think he will run a strong 2000m because of his style of racing, he loves to settle early and can come home. He also loves the pressure on.”
Messara, who has enjoyed racing his share of star horses, sympathised with Winx’s owners and anybody who dare questioned her last few race starts.
“She’s given us all she can, she’s been brilliant, her trainer [Chris Waller], jockey [Hugh Bowman] and owners have been amazingly generous with their time and sharing their thoughts and emotions,” he said.
“What more can they do? If you keep running her, they say you’re cruel to keep racing, and if you stop they want you to keep going. We’ve got the same thing with our colt.
“Our present intention is to send him to stud [after this campaign], but we know the pressure will be to keep going if he goes through unbeaten. We said we will consider everything at the end of the autumn.”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.