Winx breaks the hearts of her rivals, moves grown men to tears and makes racing sport’s feel-good story.
Racing’s winning machine is now a seven-year-old but age, like her rivals, isn’t catching up with the champion as she proved with her runaway win in the race named in her honour, the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) before 11,793 race fans at Royal Randwick.
RE-LIVE WINX STAKES DAY: How it all unfolded
THE CHAMP AND ME: A day at the races with Mrs Winx
Sydney’s super mare claimed the national record for consecutive wins, put another would-be challenger in their place, and again showed why she is the world’s best racehorse when she won the race named in her honour, the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.
Owner Peter Tighe, usually so measured and calm, became quite emotional after watching Winx’s unprecedented 26th win in succession, breaking the record she had previously shared with another legendary mare, Black Caviar.
“The world stopped for me on the turn, my heart stopped,’’ Tighe said.
“You doubt her a little bit and then she does that! I haven’t felt like this before, I’m lost for words but it’s a relief, the record is there — she is back!”
Another of Winx’s part-owners, Debbie Kepitis, praised trainer Chris Waller for his management of Winx.
“What a feat to keep this mare going for as long as he does,’’ she said. “Chris is a genius and I love him dearly.’’
Waller was also in tears, his voice cracking as he tried to put Winx’s comeback win into some perspective.
“It’s not about me, it’s about that amazing animal,’’ Waller said.
“I’ve been looking for signs she is losing her dominance but I haven’t seen one ‘ounce’ of it. If anything I’ve seen improvement. It is quite staggering.
“What she is doing for sport in Australia — we should all take a bow and say well done.’’
There were a few nervous moments as the field made the final turn as Winx, just for a stride or two, appeared to be under pressure and standing the leaders a big start.
But then Winx ($1.24 favourite) unleashed her now famous finishing sprint, completely overwhelming her rivals to race clear 100m out and score easing down by two lengths. English import Invictus Prince ($151) ran a blinder for second, with D’Argento ($17) a length away third.
Kementari ($6), the Godolphin four-year-old many thought could challenge Winx’s superiority, was alongside the great mare on the turn but couldn’t match motors with her and ran fourth.
Winx’s 26th successive win improved her overall record to 30 wins from 36 starts. It seems every race she contests these days, she rewrites racing history. The records tumbled again on Saturday including:
SHE has now won a world record 19 Group 1 races.
HER career earnings has exceeded $19.25 million — a southern hemisphere record.
HER 26 consecutive wins is a national record and trails only Puerto Rico’s Camarero with 56 successive wins and unbeaten Hungarian mare Kincesm (54 wins).
SHE is the first mare to win the Winx (formerly Warwick Stakes) three times after her 2016-17 wins. The only other three-peat winners of this race are Kingston Town (1980-81-82) and Limerick (1927-28-29).
Hugh Bowman, Winx’s regular rider, also felt the mare was in trouble on the home turn but he need not have worried.
“When she balanced up and saw the winning post, what can I say, she is incredible,’’ Bowman said.
Waller is in awe of Winx’s ability to continually defy all challengers.
“The pressure came into the race and Winx and Kementari loomed large,’’ Waller said.
“But what she does to horses is simply break their hearts. She can maintain it and some other very good horses can’t.”
Channel 7 commentator Bruce McAvaney pointed out afterwards that remarkably Winx had become just the first seven-year-old mare to win a Group 1 since triple Melbourne Cup-winning marvel Makybe Diva in 2005.
Punters who kept the faith with Winx collected again with TAB Fixed Odds taking some huge bets on the great mare including $140,000 at $1.12, $60,000 at $1.20, $50,000 at $1.20 and a $120,000 place bet at $1.04.
Winx firmed into $1.40 favouritism to claim her an unprecedented fourth successive Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in October.
Waller indicated that Winx would be restricted to three lead-up races into the Cox Plate meaning she is likely to miss the Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick in two weeks.
“I think we will wait a month and go to the George Main Stakes,’’ Waller said. “We will then work out her final lead-up run into the Cox Plate.’’
HOW THE RACE WAS WON
Start: Winx got away only fairly and settled toward the back half of the field behind Kementari as Religify and Cabeza De Vaca took up the running.
1000m: The field stayed nearly the same tow furlongs after they jumped but Hugh Bowman was just about to start to improve on Winx and get her out of trouble knowing bad luck was her biggest obstacle.
Home turn: Religify and Cabeza De Vaca led the field up to the 400m mark as D’argento was looking to get clear running in behind the speed while Winx and Kementari peeled out to become the widest runners heading into the straight, some six lengths off the leaders.
200m: By the furlong mark Winx had beaten off the challenge of Kementari, was about to go past stablemate D’argrnto and only had the two leaders to reel in who were three lengths in front of her.
Finish: The champion Winx got to the lead at the 100m and cruised over the closing stages to win eased up by two lengths from Invictus Prince who rattled home as did Unforgotten and Libran.
WHAT THE JOCKEYS SAID
Hugh Bowman (Winx): “Amazing. It’s been a while since she has run over this distance. It is a bit short of her best distance. Glyn (Kementari) and I came around the corner together. I thought I was near my top. She was struggling at the pace of this distance. When she balanced up and saw the winning post, what can I say, she is incredible.
“You see the crowd building from the start of the day. Lots of children here and that’s what I love and that’s what I love the most. Parents are bringing their kids out to see a horse of the calibre we may never see again. They only come along once in a generation. She is such a special athlete. I’m lost for words. I am so proud of her.”
Jason Collett (Invictus Prince): Very good run, he went really well.”
James McDonald (D’argento): “He went brilliant, he travelled beautifully in the run and dashed up the rise.”
Glyn Schofield (Kementari): “He had his chance, he loomed up with the mare and couldn’t quite sprint with her, he ran OK I suppose.”
Tim Clark (Cabeza De Vaca): “He ran terrific and once he goes back to handicap or set weights and penalty races he is going to be hard to beat in anything he runs in.”
Kerrin McEvoy (Unforgotten): “Great first up run.”
Jay Ford (Religify): “He gave a bit of cheek for a while in that grade he has run pretty well.”
Tommy Berry (Libran): “No great run they left him a bit flat footed on the corner but his last furlong was very good.”
Bob El-Issa (Oriental Runner): “He run well, if he jumps he probably finishes two-lengths closer.”
Andrew Adkins (Classic Uniform): “That was about as good as it gets for him he is not a Group 1 horse in a very tough race and he ran right through the line like we wanted to see. He is in for a nice campaign”
Tye Angland (Ace High): “He ran well he just needs further.”
J-MAC AND SUPPORT CAST IN AWE
JAMES McDonald, rider of minor placegetter D’Argento, has ridden with success around the world but he has never seen a racehorse like Winx.
“I haven’t experienced anything like her in my life,’’ McDonald said.
“I remember the big clash with Hartnell going into the 2016 Cox Plate but it didn’t eventuate, she was just too good.
“I’ve been away from the sport for two years but I kept following her. To get the chance to ride against her today, it gave me goose bumps.’’
McDonald said Winx aside, ghostly grey D’Argento could racing’s next big thing.
“He is the best moving horse, he just floats,’’ McDonald said.
“He went brilliant, he travelled beautifully in the run and dashed up the rise. Take out Winx and he could be the star on the horizon.’’
Glyn Schofield, rider of fourth placegetter Kementari, could offer no excuses after the race.
“Kementari had his chance, he loomed up with the mare but couldn’t quite sprint with her,’’ he said.
Tommy Berry, who rode stayer Libran into eighth placing, said it was an honour to be riding against an all-time great like Winx.
“I’ve run second to Black Caviar twice but just what Winx can overcome in her races is amazing,’’ Berry said.
“I was on Winx’s back coming down the side and to the turn. At the top of the rise, she was a couple of lengths in front of me and I was asking Libran for his effort.
“When I looked up again, Winx was five lengths in front and Hughie was easing down.
“When you see good horses like that, it is very hard to find the words to explain it.
“All I can say is she is freakish and it is an honour to be here to watch her and ride against her. She is a special horse.’’
Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel has been working in Sydney racing for nearly 30 years and rates Winx as the best horse he has seen.
“You never think she could go to another level but first-up today I think she has,’’ Van Gestel said.
“She was so dominant and obviously she is getting better. She looked amazing and will improve off this run. I think they will be chasing her for the rest of the spring.
“As a steward, you can’t help but get excited watching Winx race. She is a once in a lifetime horse.’’
GET IN QUICK FOR THE BIG SHOW
DEMAND for Cox Plate day tickets has been off the charts as the Winx phenomenon continues to grow.
The mare is shooting for an unprecedented fourth victory in the country’s premier weight-for-age race at Moonee Valley on October 27.
Moonee Valley Racing Club expects another spike in interest following the mighty mare’s 26th-straight win.
Last year’s crowd was 32,617, but this year MVRC has rejigged the footprint and capacity will be closer to 38,000.
As the race nears, MVRC said:
*More than 31,000 tickets have been sold already.
*All corporate dining, hospitality and marquees have sold out.
*All reserved grandstand seating has sold out.
*Less than 40 per cent of general admission tickets remain.
*New Winx merchandise will be available.
THE STORY SO FAR
AUSTRALIA’S ALL-TIME LEADING
1 Winx $19,255,424
2 Makybe Diva $14,526,690
3 Sunline $11,351,610
4 Northerly $9,341,850
5 So You Think $8,813,497
6 Chautauqua $8,776,935
7 Redzel $8,221,750
8 Black Caviar $7,953,936
9 Buffering $7,300,190
10 Criterion $7,268,869
MOST GROUP 1 WINS
1 Winx 19
2 Black Caviar 15
3 Kingston Town 14
4 Sunline 13
4 Tie The Knot 13
6 Manikato 11
6 Lonhro 11
6 Rough Habit 11
9 Octagonal 10
10 Northerly 9
WORLD GROUP 1 RECORDS
16 John Henry
15 Black Caviar
14 Kingston Town, Affirmed, Goldikova
13 Bayakoa, Spectacular Bid, Sunline, Tie The Knot, Zenyatta
25 Black Caviar
19 Gloaming, Desert Gold
15 Bernborough, Carbine
14 Phar Lap
12 Tulloch, Firestick
11 Kingston Town, Eurythmic, Beau Livre, Somerset Fair, Barakey
BIGGEST BETS PLACED ON WINX
$140,000 at $1.12 in the 2018 Winx Stakes
$124,000 at $1.18 in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes
$114,000 at $1.10 in the 2018 George Ryder Stakes
$108,000 at $1.06 in the 2018 TAB Chipping Norton Stakes
$106,500 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$100,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$100,000 at $1.09 in the 2018 TAB Chipping Norton Stakes
$94,150 at $1.15 in the 2017 Turnbull Stakes
$79,000 at $1.18 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$75,000 at $1.10 in the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Stakes
$72,000 at $1.08 in the 2017 George Main Stakes
$70,000 at $1.16 in the 2018 George Ryder Stakes
$70,000 at $1.15 in the 2018 George Ryder Stakes
$67,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 George Ryder Stakes
$63,000 at $1.06 in the 2017 Chelmsford Stakes
$61,600 at $1.08 in the 2017 Warwick Stakes
$60,000 @ $1.22 in the 2018 Winx Stakes
$60,000 @ $1.20 in the 2018 Winx Stakes
$60,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$60,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$58,000 at $1.20 in the 2018 Queen Elizabeth Stakes
$56,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$56,000 at $1.10 in the 2018 George Ryder Stakes
$50,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$50,000 at $1.15 in the 2017 Cox Plate
$50,000 at $1.10 in the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Stakes
OTHERS ON WINX TODAY
$31,100 @ $1.24
$30,000 @ $1.04 the place
$15,000 @ $1.24
$15,000 @ $1.22
$10,000 @ $1.22
$10,000 @ $1.20
Ray Thomas, The Daily Telegraph