Punt Drunk: Buckle up, buckaroos – Group 1 racing is back!

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The traditional “Thank God it’s Friday” call has a different ring to it this week, as Group 1 racing returns this weekend with the Winx Stakes at Randwick on Saturday. After the week that has been, with more COVID-19 outbreaks than winners, we can all use a butt-ton of winners over the weekend.

A Punt Drunk preview of the Winx Stakes

Winx Stakes
Who will put their name alongside the great mare with a win in the Winx Stakes on Saturday? (Racing Photos)

The Winx Stakes has come under plenty of scrutiny this week, with many “experts” questioning whether the race should be granted Group 1 status. That is because all bar Kolding will enter the first Group 1 race of the new season first-up from a spell, but who cares? Can Verry Elleegant become the third horse since 2000 to claim consecutive Winx Stakes victories? Can Mo’unga continue his impressive rise through the grades and claim his first Group 1 victory? Could Think It Over cause another upset as he did in the George Ryder Stakes? Or does the four-year-old mare Hungry Heart continue her rise in elite company and finish over the top of her rivals to claim a third straight Group 1 win? With all these questions and plenty more, we are bloody pumped for tomorrow’s Winx Stakes at Randwick and the spring racing season ahead!

Verry Elleegant’s Cox Plate jockey decided

Verry Elleegant
Mark Zahra returns to the mounting yard aboard Verry Elleegant after winning the Caulfield Cup. (Racing Photos)

Verry Elleegant is the market elect in tomorrow’s Group 1 Winx Stakes, and earlier in the week the jockey for her Melbourne spring campaign was announced. After pairing her to successive wins in the Turnbull Stakes and the Caulfield Cup last year, Mark Zahra will take the steer once more with a win in the Cox Plate on the agenda. James McDonald is all but certainly ruled out for a Victorian venture thanks to the 600+ daily cases in NSW, so it was seemingly an easy decision for connections to pop Zahra back on. Imagine having the choice of two of the best Group 1 jockeys in Australia to ride one of the best mares this country has ever seen? Must be nice.

Walker on the mend after Pakenham fall

Michael Walker
When will we see Michael Walker back in the saddle? (Racing Photos)

The popular jockey Michael Walker has revealed he is slowly recovering from his horrific fall at Pakenham back in May. The man known as “Cuzzy” has since had a full knee reconstruction, and with a fair bit of the unknown set to play out in the coming months, it is unclear when we might see Walker back in the saddle. Injuries to jockeys are slightly less common than a positive swab for COVID-19, but a full knee reco is not an operation we see very often in the racing world. We have become used to them in the sporting world, but they tend to come with a 12-month recovery due to the amount of contact and change of direction required in sports like Australian footy and rugby league. Here’s hoping we see Walker return to work sooner rather than later.

Friday Racing Tips – August 20, 2021

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Welcome to Punt Drunk! Our new daily column covering all the latest horse racing and punting controversies, dramas and headline news. Have a story or gripe or issue that just grinds your gears? Just hit us up in the comments or contact us page and our jaded, punt hardened Punt Drunk staff will give it the Punt Drunk treatment it deserves. Don’t expect pleasantries or typical racing media fanboy gloss from Punt Drunk – we’re on the punt and we don’t have time to bullshit; the next is about to jump…

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