August 19, 2018

Winx return postponed due to Bowman suspension

Hugh Bowman celebrates a third Cox Plate aboard the mighty Winx (Photo courtesy of Racing Victoria via Twitter)

Australian supermare Winx, originally slated to resume in the February 17 Apollo S. (G2), will instead skip that step and proceed straight to the Chipping Norton (G1) on March 3, her team revealed Tuesday morning Sydney time.

The reason? Regular rider Hugh Bowman has incurred a suspension that will keep him out of action until February 22, and connections would prefer to change her plans – as she seeks her 23rd consecutive victory – rather than change her jockey.

Trainer Chris Waller had been mulling his options as the Bowman story developed. First copping a seven-meeting ban for a careless riding infraction at Warwick Farm January 26 – for his winning ride aboard the mare Tswalu – Bowman ran afoul of the stewards at New Zealand’s Ellerslie on January 27 for the same reason. In town for the Karaka Million card, he was slapped with another eight-day suspension for careless riding aboard runner-up Five to Midnight.

Bowman decided to appeal his first suspension with Racing New South Wales Monday, but the authorities upheld the seven-meeting penalty. He then dropped the idea of pursuing an appeal in New Zealand.

Amid the swirl of uncertainty Monday morning, Bowman guided Winx through her second barrier trial of the new year at Rosehill. The Street Cry mare, who was sixth in her first barrier trial back on January 22, was fifth behind multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Redzel (hero of the inaugural Everest) in her hit-out.

Waller and Bowman were both content with Winx. Last seen completing a rare Cox Plate (G1) hat trick October 28, the world’s top-rated turf horse of both 2016 and 2017 is not one to overexert herself in practice.

Once Bowman’s unavailability was confirmed, Waller was happy enough to believe that Winx doesn’t have to launch her campaign in the about seven-furlong Apollo – her starting point in both 2016 and 2017 on the way to her back-to-back victories in the Chipping Norton. Aside from waiting two more weeks, Winx will also tackle the Chipping Norton’s metric mile first up.

As part of his statement released through Team Winx, Waller noted that it’s early enough to adjust and add on a third barrier trial:

“Hugh Bowman is a very important part of Winx and we feel that we can go straight into the Chipping Norton first up without the need to resume in the Apollo Stakes as we had originally planned. She races well fresh and we are well ahead of schedule with her, so I will simply give her a third trial to ensure her fitness levels are high enough to compete at her best in this race. Should Hugh have been suspended in the middle or late in the preparation closer to her significant targets we would have opted to use a suitable replacement rider for Winx, however we are in the fortunate position that we can alter her starting point without affecting her main targets this preparation.”

After the two-time defending champion contests the Chipping Norton, another three-peat attempt would follow in the March 24 George Ryder (G1) at Rosehill. Then potential international targets, first and foremost Royal Ascot, would come into the discussion. Might the alteration of her program become a factor in that discussion? Only time will tell.

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