June 13, 2024

Winx surges late for 20th straight

Winx is expected to have one more run before her Cox Plate three-peat attempt (Photo by Steve Hart courtesy Racing NSW via Twitter)

After again giving her fans a few qualms turning for home, Australia’s great champion Winx turned on the afterburners and zoomed to a 20th consecutive victory in Saturday’s George Main (aka Colgate Optic White) (G1) at Randwick.

The world’s top-rated turf horse wasn’t quickest into stride, and regular rider Hugh Bowman let her settle near the back of the field. But Bowman had to nudge her along, with increasing urgency rounding the far turn, as she was in danger of giving front runner Red Excitement too much rope.

Straightening up down the lane, though, Winx began to improve and drew within range of the leaders. When Happy Clapper rolled past a weakening Red Excitement and struck the front, Winx was breezing on the outside. Bowman now could enjoy the steering job, with no more than a confident hand ride the rest of the way.

Winx blasted her final 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :33.54 to complete the metric mile in 1:33.65 over the good course. The Chris Waller mare, who captured last year’s George Main by 1 1/4 lengths, posted the same margin in her repeat.

By racking up her 20th win in a row, Winx went one better than another daughter of Street Cry, U.S. Hall of Famer Zenyatta, whose skein ended at 19.

“Today I expected to be closer to the speed but the pace was strong,” Bowman said.

“At the top of the straight she had a lot of ground to make up but after her last two performances (in the Warwick [G2] and Chelmsford [G2]) and I knew she could do it, I am just so proud of her.”

Jockey Tye Angland, who rode sixth-placer Heavens Above, commented that he too was worried about Winx midrace.

“She (Heavens Above) went well, they just went too quick for her in the middle stages. It got me off the bit a long way from home, to get her to perform at her best she has to travel up and only get off the bridle in the last 300m. I was off the bit next to Winx at the half-mile, I was concerned for her actually, but I thought my girl stuck on well.”

Runner-up Happy Clapper raised his game against Winx, according to jockey Blake Shinn.

“Gallant effort, he traveled really well, I think he knew Winx was in that race today, he gave something a bit extra than he has done before. At the half-mile I felt like the winner, the 400m he felt the winner. It’s very humbling to run second to her. She’s the people’s champ. Full credit to my horse and (trainer) Pat Webster, he was very brave today.”

Brenton Avdulla, who guided Winx’s stablemate Foxplay to a third, put the streaking winner into a different category.

“She’s terrific (Foxplay), probably almost the best mare in the country because I don’t call Winx a mare, she’s a freak.”

Waller said he wasn’t “too worried about how she was traveling midrace – don’t overanalyze things, just enjoy Winx for who she is.”

Winx’s co-owner Peter Tighe did have some concern before Winx got into gear.

“She turns a bad run into a good run very quickly and puts good horses away,” he said.

Winx is now one step closer to her bid for history, a Cox Plate (G1) three-peat that has been achieved only once before, by the immortal Kingston Town. Although Waller is in no hurry to set plans in stone, her last prep run is likely to come in the October 14 Craven (G3) at Randwick.

Judging by her efforts so far this preparation, Winx is already looking for that step up to 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles). International travel is expected to be on her agenda next year.

“I think she could be anything she wants to be,” Tighe said. “The world is her oyster that’s for sure.’’