CHAMPION QUALITY

Wednesday 7, 2021 2:00 PM By Best Bets

Eyebrows were raised in 2014 when Racing NSW launched The Championships as the “grand finals of Australian racing” but subsequent results have lent the claim some credibility.

In six of The Championships’ first seven years, Australia’s horse of the year has raced (and won) at the Randwick carnival. The exception was 2014/15 champion Dissident.

The champion racehorse in four of those years was Winx. She won the Doncaster in 2016 and the Queen Elizabeth in each of the three following years, but in all four of those seasons she also won the Cox Plate.

The 2013/14 horse of the year was Lankan Rupee, whose win in the T.J. Smith at The Championships was probably decisive in getting him the nod.

Nature Strip won last year’s T.J. Smith to lock up what was until then a very wide-open race for championship honours.

This year’s race is not so wide open, but it does look as if The Championships may decide the issue as usual.

At this time last year, no horse had won more than two Group 1 races in the Australian season. This season, one has. And she’s a clear leader, Verry Elleegant winning five majors including a genuine grand final in the Caulfield Cup.

The mare must be odds-on to give Chris Waller’s stable the champion Australian racehorse for the sixth successive year, but she will likely face her most realistic challenger in Saturday week’s $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

If Sir Dragonet could add the Queen Elizabeth to his Cox Plate and Tancred Stakes titles, and beat Verry Elleegant in doing so, he’d have a compelling case.

More immediately, Saturday’s T.J. Smith could decide the identity of Australia’s champion sprinter, though it’s hard to see any runner producing a performance better than that of Classique Legend in the Everest.