Winx wins Warwick Stakes on Randwick return

No doubt: Jockey Hugh Bowman rides Winx to win the Warwick Stakes at Royal Randwick. Photo: bradleyphotos苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛 A surprise performer: Winx ran 32.89 seconds home for her final 600m. Photo: bradleyphotos苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛

There wasn’t a moment of doubt with Winx in the Warwick Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.

Ridden with confidence by Hugh Bowman, she sat to the outside of Rebel Dane in total control of the group 2, waiting for the jockey’s signal to act.

At the 300 metre mark, Rebel Dane was flat out, as were the group of stayers behind her. Winx was still on the bridle.

She eased to the front and Bowman moved to give her more rein at the 200m mark and she put 3½ lengths on her rivals, Hartnell running into second and Rebel Dane holding on another three-quarters of a length back.

“I don’t think even you know how good she is,” Rebel Dane’s trainer Gary Portelli said to Chris Waller. “We let him go and quicken as good as I thought we could and she was still jogging. That was amazing.”

Hartnell’s trainer John O’Shea added: “She a champion. There is no disgrace in what [Hartnell] did.”

The clock matched the praise from rivals as Winx ran 32.89 seconds home for her final 600m.

“Jeez, did she,” Waller said when confronted by the time. “You get to see the best of her on raceday. I had a lot of respect for Rebel Dane. He  is a very good 1400m horse and she was just there and had him covered.”

There was never a doubt on Winx’s quality but now the question will be is she better as a fully mature mare. This was the sort of performance that suggests she is.

It was a Black Caviar-like performance, taking every runner out of their comfort zones, then dragging them along with her.

It was why 9135 punters showed up, 700 arriving in the half hour before Winx’s command performance.

“That is the heats of the Olympics over and done with and we just have the semi-final and final to come,” Waller said.

“You never really know where horses are the way I train. That’s just our system and we take them along quietly and just gradually build.

“Her track work has been great, trials have been adequate and she has been brilliant the last week or so.”

Bowman was again surprised by Winx, who has delivered him his biggest wins in the Cox Plate and Doncaster.

“I don’t think she’s been as quick under me as she was today when I let her go,” Bowman said “I’m starting to get used to her and getting to know her more and more each time.

“Usually there are horses around me and I’ve got something to run down and I’m focusing on her and the horses around me but today, because I had the better of Rebel Dane at the 300m, it was just me and her.

“When she let down, it was a special feeling and I’m looking forward to feeling it again.”

Bowman tried to temper his enthusiasm for Winx because of the small field of mainly stayers.

“It’s hard not to get carried away with this mare, she really is something special,” he said. “It’s just an honour to be on her back.”

Winx will be back at Randwick for the Chelmsford Stakes in two weeks, when the crowd is sure to swell. Hartnell will follow her there, but his aim will be the Metropolitan on the long weekend in October.

“He is back and he loves this track and I can’t wait to get him up to those trips where he is suited,” hoop James McDonald said.

Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Lucia Valentina ran fourth and Kerrin McEVoy gave her a pass mark.

“She got a little bit out-sprinted when Winx went and I just had to help her through that cut-up ground around the corner, but the best part of her race was her last furlong and a half, so that’s a good sign moving forward,” he said.

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Smart sprinter may need time.

While Darren Weir is convinced that his sprinting three-year-old, Ken’s Dream, who was victorious in Saturday’s $120,000 McKenzie Stakes, has a bright future, the trainer maintains it may not be this spring that we see the best of the youngster.

Ken’s Dream, just having his second race start on Saturday, led throughout to defeat a smart field and tackling listed company for the first time.

“I looked at him in the yard before the race and he just looked light then, so I’m just wondering whether to stop him now or go forward. I think that’s the toughest part about assessing his win,” Weir said.

Weir maintains that Ken’s Dream is a high-class sprinter of the future, but whether it’s this spring or next autumn will be the question that Victoria’s finest horse trainer will have to ponder.

“You don’t see many horses win a maiden in the bush and then come straight into town and win in Melbourne. It takes a pretty smart horse to do that,” Weir said.

Jockey Dean Yendell believes the horse has an excellent future judging by the way he fought of late challenges in yesterday’s listed race.

“The plan was to sit outside the leader or even be one by one but I was then happy to find we’ve got the lead,” Yendell said.

“They started to put a bit of pressure on with 500 metres to go so I had to get on my bike and get rolling and he responded well.

“He’s still very new and he’s got so much upside. He’s learning how to cope with racing and, at the moment, he’s like a kid’s pony so the future is going to be bright.”

At the top of the straight, it appeared that Dam Ready was going to genuinely challenge Ken’s Dream but under strong riding, he managed to overcome the challenge.

The winner started at $2.30 favourite and was too strong for Dam Ready, with Throssell in third.

Deal Master stuck to his guns to be fourth but never looked a genuine threat of overcoming the winner.

Ken’s Dream had his first race start in the northeast of Melbourne at Echuca but showed at Moonee Valley that he was indeed a horse of the future.

Weir said that he’d not pushed Ken’s Dream but the horse had shown significant ability at home at his Ballarat base.

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New education authority in NSW with power to close schools and run inspections

“It’s about finding where there might be weaknesses”: Adrian Piccoli. Photo: Daniel Munoz A powerful new education authority is aimed at lifting standards in schools. Photo: Fairfax Media

A new, beefed-up independent education authority will have the power to close non-compliant schools and conduct random unannounced inspections in Catholic, private and public schools, in major changes announced by the NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli on Friday.

The Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards, known as BOSTES, will be renamed the NSW Education Standards Authority and given enhanced powers to lift school compliance and teacher quality with the ultimate aim of improving student results.

Independent schools will be subject to an increased number of random and risk-based audits, and the agency will have the power to formally warn and ultimately deregister any school not meeting regulatory requirements.

On teacher standards, the authority’s inspectors will be trained in special curriculum areas to conduct classroom observations, in some cases down to the level of detail of ensuring students’ workbooks properly reflect the official curriculum.

“The board ought to make schools nervous around school registration requirements, and it ought to make teachers nervous around teaching standards,” said Mr Piccoli.

“It’s not punitive, it’s not about closing schools down, it’s about finding where there might be weaknesses and helping schools address those weaknesses in their systems.”

Issues such as a rapid turnover of school boards or senior staff, concerns about finances, very poor academic results or a rush of parent complaints are the sort of things that would trigger the authority’s attention and potentially lead to risk audits and school inspections.

BOSTES, which was formed from the merger of the Board of Studies and the NSW Institute of Teachers in 2014, has responsibility for the school curriculum, the HSC and teaching and regulatory standards in NSW schools.

The new changes come out of a review of BOSTES chaired by Emeritus Professor Bill Louden, which was also critical of BOSTES for “needlessly duplicating” national reforms in regulation and curriculum areas, saying the board’s regulatory processes are “currently administratively burdensome for schools, teachers, employers and indeed for BOSTES itself”.

The changes will involve “a reorganisation of resources”, according to BOSTES President Tom Alegounarias. The authority’s efforts will be focused on schools where there is a high risk of problems, while devolving some of the administrative burden of compliance to principals.

Mr Alegounarias, who will become the part-time chair with a chief executive beneath him in the new structure, cited the highest achieving education jurisdictions globally as a target for NSW.

“It’s about setting our targets against international standards. How do we get to Shanghai, how do we get to Finland?”

Proof the reform has worked would be “a big bump” in the state’s NAPLAN results in the next few years, he said.

But Mr Piccoli cautioned that the changes to BOSTES on their own were not “a silver bullet” for lifting student results.

“It’s about information: what are the weaknesses and what do we need to do to target those weaknesses?” Mr Piccoli said.

The authority will also be required to more frequently review and update syllabuses, particularly in information technology and STEM subjects.

BOSTES’ 23-member board will be cut to less than 14 in a move likely to irritate some stakeholders.

Mr Piccoli said the powerful agency, operating at arm’s length from government, schools and universities, would ensure that curriculum, assessment, school registration and teacher standards were all working together to improve the quality of education in NSW.

The changes have been welcomed by the Association of Independent Schools NSW and the Catholic Education Commission of NSW, as well as the NSW Business Chamber.

Dr Geoff Newcombe, representing independent schools, said the new governance framework was a considerable improvement, and welcomed the authority’s random and spot inspections power. “To move it from a compliance role to look more at the impact of the teaching in the schools is a really good thing,” he said.

But the NSW Teachers Federation was not nearly as enthusiastic, saying it “noted” the release and would have more to say after closely examining the details.

The changes to BOSTES follow other reforms aimed at lifting teacher quality in NSW such as minimum entry standards to teaching degrees.

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Walton family fortune soars as Wal-Mart raises earnings forecast

Jim Walton (from left), Alice Walton and Rob Walton talk on stage during the annual Wal-Mart shareholders meeting in June. Photo: Jason Ivester/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via APThe world’s richest family just got a little richer after Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, increased its earnings forecast.

Wal-Mart’s shares rose 1.9 percent on Thursday, boosting the Walton family’s net worth to $US127 billion ($165 billion), a 19 per cent increase since year-end. That’s more than the national GDP of Hungary.

By comparison, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has seen his fortune rise 12 per cent in 2016 to $US67 billion. The Waltons collectively own 52 per cent of Wal-Mart.

The latest gains came after the retail giant ratcheted up its expectations for its full-year earnings growth after its second-quarter financial results surpassed forecasts. Its shares are up 21 percent year to date – marking a reversal from the nearly 30 per cent decline in 2015. Wal-Mart’s online sales growth started climbing again and executives struck a positive tone about how its efforts to pay its workers more and push down prices at its stores were attracting more shoppers.

Although there are still mounting troubles in Walmart’s UK operations, stores in its home market notched their eighth consecutive quarter of positive sales growth, standing out from retailers like Target and Macy’s, which lament stagnating sales and the increasing tendency for consumers to be persnickety with where they spend their money.

Since taking the helm in 2014, Wal-Mart boss Doug McMillon has cut prices and improved customer service while pouring money into online operations to stem shopper defections to Amazon.

The Waltons – Alice, Christy, Jim, Lukas and Rob Walton – are the world’s richest family. They’re ahead of Bill, Charles and David Koch, who have a combined $US106 billion fortune owning oil refining conglomerate Koch Industries, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his family, who control $US89 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index .


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Medibank Private’s health scare

New Medibank CEO Craig Drummond: “What we have been doing in and around the customer is unacceptable.” Photo: Wayne TaylorAustralia’s largest health insurer, Medibank Private, has given investors a pretty worrying prognosis: industry growth is weakening and it is losing market share. The treatment? It’s time to look after customers.

On the face of it, the 12 months to June 2016 looked like a bumper year for earnings as management capitalised on the first full year of operations following the insurer’s $5.7 billion government privatisation.

But the second half showed that growth is slowing, and the company’s new chief executive Craig Drummond is expecting 2017 won’t be much better thanks to “continued market share loss”.

Investors reacted swiftly and decisively to the statement, pushing the insurer’s share price down more than 6 per cent in morning trading.

If the prospect of growth hitting a brick wall wasn’t enough of a concern for Drummond, there’s also the prospect of legal action from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over its allegations of engaging in misleading conduct, making false or misleading representations to customers and engaging in unconscionable conduct.

All this – the ACCC says – was an attempt by the insurer to plump up its profit and maximise the value of the company as it prepared for its November 2014 privatisation and sharemarket listing.

It seems clear Medibank is now paying the price for allegedly treating its customers disdainfully. Drummond revealed on Friday that customer numbers had been hurt in the wake of the scandal over the insurer’s conduct, and this trend has continued in the 2017 financial year.

He didn’t put any numbers around how much this has cost the company in terms of customer numbers, revenue or profit, in part because there’s a series of other issues including IT problems and the general level of affordability and value of health care insurance contributing to the outcome.

But with an increase in the number of lapsed policies during the year and a decline in the number of new ones, Medibank’s customer base fell by 2.5 per cent and the number of customers using its main Medibank brand fell by an even larger 3.8 per cent. .

The weakness in customer numbers has led to a fall in revenue growth in the second half.

Drummond told analysts that “it is still a very good business… [but] what we have been doing in and around the customer is unacceptable.” Going forward, the company plans to “hold people [management] to account” by including customer service in the way they are measured for bonuses.

In some respects, the entire industry is facing challenges as people have started to save on their hospital cover, due in part to policy premiums having risen for years at a significantly higher rate than inflation.

Medibank’s overall annual profit was up 46 per cent, but most of this was due to cost savings after the insurer’s privatisation – the low-hanging fruit that many former government-owned companies get by pushing a commercial broom through their businesses.

That fruit has now been mostly plucked. In the December half, Medibank also got a big earnings tailwind from lower growth in its customers’ use of hospital services, something which happened across the industry. But it looks like this tailwind is now barely a breeze.

Drummond, who started at Medibank only a few months back, knows a thing or two about the importance of customer satisfaction. He came from the National Australia Bank – which as one of the country’s big four banks is subject to regular public customer satisfaction ratings.

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