The Apollo Stakes may only be a Group 2 race worth $250,000 but for Chris Waller it held significant importance for the career of his astonishing mare Winx.
For us on the outside peering in, the equation looks simple.
She’s the equal-highest-rated horse in the world and light years ahead of anything that Australian racing can serve up to her.
She would just turn up and easily account for the challengers, as she had done for her previous 29 starts.
And that she did, with similar ease as we have witnessed on so many occasions, powering straight past Happy Clapper and Egg Tart, who filled the placings.
Why then would Waller be so emotional? This wasn’t the Cox Plate or another Queen Elizabeth.
But for Waller, he realises the weight of expectation.
He knows the world is watching and while her trials, trackwork and all the indicators say she is still at the peak of her power, race day is the true indicator.
This was the race that would either vindicate the decision by Waller and the owners to race on after the Cox Plate or suggest they may have pressed for too much.
She is currently seven and half way to her eighth birthday.
Everyone hopes the machine that is Winx will just keep churning out wins, but Waller knows there has to be an end at some point.
“It is just a sense of relief, we take it so personally, she can’t tell us when she has had enough, we made the decision to push on a bit further, she is pretty good,” Waller said.
“I think today’s race was the most important, seeing her come back like that.
“The natural improvement will be there, two weeks’ time will be the plan, the Chipping Norton and last year we didn’t have the beauty of having a first-up run, she went straight into it, look out in two weeks’ time.”
For jockey Hugh Bowman, he appears the opposite of Waller.
He seems emotionless, so cool under pressure.
The occasion certainly doesn’t get to him, regardless of the scenario.
“The pace of the race was very even, which suited us, I just had to niggle her to hold her position closer than I normally would over a bit further, especially when I could see the path Sam Clipperton was plotting on Happy Clapper,” he said.
“Out of pure respect of that horse’s ability, we needed to be within striking distance.
“As the race unfolded we settled in to a lovely rhythm as we always do and it was a pretty comfortable race for me and it was pretty comfortable for Winx too.
“I was able to just come out from behind Egg Tart and let her increase into the race without worrying about getting the leader.
“I was in pure control, well she was in pure control from the 600m when the pressure started to build.
“As we have seen at this distance previously, she can just be left flat footed (but) because of the even pace of the race it wasn’t the case today, when I went past Sam (Clipperton) I just really asked her to give her full effort and she let down.” – Racing.com