April 12, 2021

Winx storms to 31st straight, new world record 23 Group 1s in Chipping Norton

Winx shown winning the 2018 Queen Elizabeth at Randwick (c) Tomoya Moriuchi/Horsephotos.com

You don’t compile a winning streak going on four years without overcoming every kind of tactical situation, and Australian wonder mare Winx illustrated the point again – for the 31st race in a row – in Saturday’s Chipping Norton (G1).

A wild front-running gambit by familiar foe Happy Clapper might have caused her global fan club to hold their breath entering the Randwick stretch, but Winx found the answer. Surging late under considerate handling by Hugh Bowman, the world’s top-ranked horse overhauled the pacesetter to prevail. She was well on top by 1 3/4 lengths in the end, as if any other result were unthinkable.

Winx is now on top of the world in another respect, surpassing Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly’s overall record of 22 Group 1 wins by racking up number 23. The Street Cry mare had already been the world record holder for most Group 1 wins on the Flat, thanks to her victory in the 2018 George Ryder (G1) that pushed her past John Henry’s old mark of 16.

Happy Clapper was runner-up that day, as well as in their mutual comeback in the February 16 Apollo (G2). Jockey Blake Shinn, in rare form at Randwick Saturday, had won three races on the card going into the Chipping Norton. In a race with a muddling pace scenario on paper, Shinn opted to send the multiple Group 1-winning veteran early and try to build up too big a lead even for Winx.

Running his heart out, Happy Clapper turned for home with a substantial margin. But it was still not enough to thwart the inexorable Winx, who delivered a stakes-record 1:33.27 in the metric mile feature.

Shinn marveled at what Winx had to do to catch him.

“What can I say about my horse? He put up a Group 1-winning performance but there are no superlatives you can say about the winner,” Shinn said. “She’s just a freak and she had to put up a freakish performance to beat Happy Clapper.”

Bowman credited Shinn for his enterprising tactic.

“Blake really made it a test today, as Josh Parr did a few years ago on Red Excitement (in the 2017 Chelmsford [G2]) but she can cover all bases this mare. She’s just an amazing athlete, there are really no more words to describe her.

“When you watch the replay, at the 700 meters you would have thought, ‘Well, she’s out of business,’ and another jockey riding her may have thought that, but I knew when I balanced up there was no way that Happy Clapper could sustain that speed.

“I knew that when she balanced up she’d have the energy required to reel him in. To be honest, although I was pushing her, she did it with relative ease.”

There was a touch of pre-race drama too. Winx acted up in the gate briefly. That set off stablemate Libran, who reared and had to be backed out, inspected, and passed fit, before reloading.

“She was a little agitated today, more so than she has been recently,” Bowman said, “but fortunately they didn’t open when they pressed the button.”

Winx was winning the Chipping Norton for the fourth consecutive year. Her most prestigious “grand slam” remains her four straight editions of the Cox Plate (G1).

Her trainer, Chris Waller, had every other horse in the race except for Happy Clapper, from the Patrick Webster yard. Unforgotten churned on for third, a further 3 3/4 lengths adrift. Next came Egg Tart, Libran, Patrick Erin, and Brimham Rocks.

If the plan crafted at the beginning of this preparation holds, Winx has just two races left in her epoch-making career – the March 23 George Ryder (G1) at Rosehill, as the three-time defending champion, and a three-peat bid in the April 13 Queen Elizabeth (G1) back at Randwick.