Winx review: Andrew Rule on the story and people behind the champion mare

Winx’s farewell preparation ahead of schedule
January 7, 2019
Chris Waller Racing Newsletter 11.01.2019
January 11, 2019

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She is the reigning Queen of the Turf. Twenty-nine straight wins, record numbers at the highest level, and a streak that looks like it could go on forever. She is certainly the best in training now, and some will argue that she is the best ever – better even than immortals such as Phar Lap, Tulloch and the more recent superstar mare, Black Caviar.

Thankfully Andrew Rule, in his excellent biography, doesn’t try to make comparisons. He simply lets Winx’s race record here in Australia – she has never left these shores – stand for itself and invites us to admire her achievements on their own terms.

But the statistics tell only part of the story. What they don’t illustrate – but Rule does in his thoroughly researched and easy to read volume – is the story behind the stats. He brings in the people who have been involved one way or another in the Winx story and lets them all tell their tales.

Rule, an experienced journalist and writer (he is co-author of the Underbelly series of books), has one advantage over many that write on racing: he is a horseman rather than a punter and has worked in stables. He even suggests that he is the only Australian Journalist of the Year to have ridden a winner in their youth.

It shows in the warmth and understanding he brings not only to the racing story but in his retelling of the part played by those away from the limelight – the likes of Olly Kooman, who manages the farm where Winx goes to spell; her Turkish strapper, Umit Odemislioglu, who has looked after her since she first entered Chris Waller’s Rosehill stable as a tall, lean unfinished youngster, and the man who was her breeder before she went to the Magic Millions auction where she was sold as a youngster.

The human stars are painted just as painstakingly as the equine heroine, but the man who is the most fascinating is the Sydney-based New Zealander Chris Waller, who arrived in Australia with little in the way of money, horses or patrons to become, in under two decades, one of the most successful trainers the sport has seen.

Meticulous, humble, focused, driven, Waller is a man who leaves little to chance where his horses are concerned. His ability to keep Winx sound, fit and still interested in competing at an age (seven) when most fillies and mares are being directed towards motherhood is a feat in itself.

To win four Cox Plates with Winx is an achievement that may never be matched, and still in his 40s, Waller is likely to set ever higher benchmarks for those coming after him to target. A bit like his superstar galloper, really. – Michael Lynch, Sydney Morning Herald.