For the third straight year, Winx kicks off her Australian spring in the same stakes at Randwick – but Saturday’s renewal (late Friday night 1 a.m. EDT) has noteworthy differences.
The about seven-furlong affair formerly known as the Warwick S. (G2) has been upgraded and rechristened the Winx S. (G1) in her honor. And its historical significance is greater as well. Should Winx extend her winning streak to 26 in her own race, she’d surpass the record of 25 held by another Australian legend, Black Caviar.
The world’s highest rated Thoroughbred, Winx comes off another stellar campaign at the age of six, her highlights including a third consecutive Cox Plate (G1) and a repeat in the April 14 Queen Elizabeth (G1) in her seasonal finale.
Connections skipped an international foray to Royal Ascot, explaining that it was in Winx’s best interests to remain in Australia. Now she’ll look toward an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate back at Moonee Valley October 27, and trainer Chris Waller has her ready to go in her comeback.
“She’s seven years old now – just turned seven – but in our eyes, she’s picture perfect,” Waller said.
“She’s primed for Saturday. She’s spot-on. She’s sharp. I just shake my head in disbelief most mornings.”
Regular rider Hugh Bowman agrees that Winx is in shape, and in the right frame of mind.
“We’re just happy she’s come back in such great order,” Bowman said. “She’s a very happy individual.”
Winx has knocked the cobwebs off with two barrier trials at Rosehill, a quiet seventh July 23 and an eye-catching third on the bridle August 7. In between, she turned in a raceday gallop at Randwick, and she topped off her preparation with an early Thursday morning leg-stretcher at Rosehill.
TRIAL REPLAY: WINX went through her gears cleanly in a nice piece of work at Rosehill this morning. Hugh, Chris and the team are very happy with her. Vision: @SkyRacingAU // #gowinx #winxhorse pic.twitter.com/2VvcyaEKa5
— Winx (Official) (@winx_horse) July 22, 2018
— Winx (Official) (@winx_horse) August 5, 2018
— Winx (Official) (@winx_horse) August 6, 2018
— Winx (Official) (@winx_horse) August 15, 2018
But Winx isn’t being handed the Winx on a silver platter. Ten rivals are willing to take her on, including four stablemates, among them four-year-olds representing the new generation of star power.
Godolphin’s Alizee had to be ruled out after a bleeding episode, and mandatory three-month spell on the sidelines, but the elite operation has simply tossed another prime player, Randwick Guineas (G1) hero Kementari, into the line-up. Third to Winx in the March 24 George Ryder (G1) on soft going, the James Cummings charge is eligible to show more with maturity. Kementari also has the benefit of a pipe-opener, a troubled near-miss in the August 4 Missile (G2), and promises to improve second up over an extra furlong. He does have to give Winx four pounds, though.
Two of the prominent four-year-olds are Winx’s stablemates D’Argento and Unforgotten, both likewise resuming from layoffs. D’Argento chased Kementari before breaking through in the about 1 1/4-mile Rosehill Guineas (G1), and the bright gray followed up with a fourth in Randwick’s Doncaster Mile (G1). Unforgotten ended her sophomore season on a high note in the Australian Oaks (G1), gaining revenge on Hiyaam after her second in the Vinery Stud (G1). But Unforgotten is effective over shorter, as illustrated by her beating the boys in the about 7 1/2-furlong Phar Lap (G2). She also carries the least weight with 124 pounds, one pound less than Winx. The Waller distaffers are drawn next to each other in the middle of the field, Winx in post 5 and Unforgotten in post 6.
Rounding out the four-year-old phalanx is Ace High, who’s using this as a warm-up to go longer for David Payne. The Spring Champion (G1) and Victoria Derby (G1) hero concluded his sophomore campaign with a photo-finish loss in the Australian Derby (G1).
Along with Winx, D’Argento, and Unforgotten, Waller’s quintet comprises Group 2-winning stayer Libran, last seen 12th in the Sydney Cup (G1) over two metric miles, and multiple stakes scorer Religify. Runner-up in the Crystal Mile (G2) on the Cox Plate undercard, Religify missed the Australian autumn but has raced a couple of times in listed stakes this winter, progressing from an 11th at Ipswich to a fourth on the stretch-out to a mile at Doomben.
Other entrants are Classic Uniform, the 2017 Hill S. (G2) victor who was most recently ninth in the Queen Elizabeth behind Winx; Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott’s course-and-distance winner Cabeza de Vaca, a close second in the Villiers (G2) here but unraced since disappointing at Doomben December 30; and class-challenged handicappers Invictus Prince and Oriental Runner.
You can watch Winx in the Winx on TwinSpires.com Friday night, carded as the 6TH at Randwick (Australia B) with a scheduled post time of 1 a.m. (EDT).