Champion mare Winx could equal the great Black Caviar’s famous winning streak in Sydney’s richest autumn carnival race, the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes, after trainer Chris Waller delayed her comeback until next month.
Waller announced on Tuesday that Winx will not resume until the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on March 3 so regular jockey Hugh Bowman can retain the mount.
Winx will then contest the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 24 and if she can win those two weight-for-age races, it will extend her sequence to 24 wins in succession.
This potentially sets up an opportunity for Winx to equal Black Caviar’s record of 25 wins in succession in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 14.
Waller maintains he won’t make a decision on Winx’s race program until after the George Ryder Stakes as he is also considering taking the great mare to race at England’s famous Royal Ascot carnival in June.
But it would be very tempting for Winx’s connections to run in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes if their great mare had the chance to extend her winning sequence and match Black Caviar’s legendary achievement.
TAB Fixed Odds has already opened a betting market for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes with Winx a dominant $1.40 favourite with Humidor next in betting at $11.
Winx’s comeback had been scheduled for the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) on February 17 but Waller decided on a change of program after Bowman lost his appeal against a careless riding suspension last Monday.
“Hugh Bowman is very much an important part of Winx and we feel we can go straight into the Chipping Norton first-up without the need to resume in the Apollo Stakes as we had originally planned,’’ Waller said.
Winx will be resuming at 1600m in the Chipping Norton, the longest race distance she has contested first-up from a spell, but the mighty mare’s athletic ability and extraordinary talent enables her to do things on the racetrack that is beyond other horses.
“She races well fresh and we are well ahead of schedule with her, so I will simply give her a third (barrier) trial to ensure her fitness levels are high enough to compete at her best in this race,’’ Waller said.
“We are in the fortunate position that we can alter her starting point without affecting her main targets this preparation.’’
Waller and Winx’s owners were reluctant to break up the sport’s most successful jockey-horse combination with Bowman having won 21 races on the great mare, including her last 19 races in succession.
Winx can also be fractious in the barriers early in her race campaigns — remember how she blew the start by nearly five lengths in the Warwick Stakes when resuming last August — and it might have been risky putting on another jockey for a one-off Apollo Stakes ride.
But Waller did add that should Bowman become unavailable later in the autumn through suspension or some other unforeseen circumstance, a replacement jockey would be found for Winx.
NSW TAB will refund all bets placed on Winx in the Apollo Stakes futures market, where she was the $1.08 favourite. – Ray Thomas, The Daily Telegraph