Winx and Hugh Bowman after winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Lisa Grimm)
It was always going to end in tears.
Tears if she won. Tears if she lost.
Crikey, the only thing missing at Royal Randwick was Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman giving us a rendition of ‘Time To Say Goodbye’.
Fortunately they gave us Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ instead.
Cheer. Cry. Cheer. Cry some more.
To quote a line from that old racing journo, Bill Shakespeare, parting is such sweet sorrow.
But it’s not just for the owners, nor the trainer, nor the jockey, nor the strapper, nor the superlative-strapped commentators … nor the thousands who packed into Randwick.
No, it’s just as much for the nation at large. After all, when was the last time a horse race led the ABC News? When was the last time a Prime Minister made a campaign stop at the races? When was the last time a current affairs panelist – who has probably never set foot on a racetrack – started quoting racing stats like “Winx will be chasing her 33rd successive Group One victory”?
(OK, so he was wrong about the number of Group Ones, but that’s not the point … EVERYONE was talking about Winx’s adieu).
Even hours before the race, social media lit up with such minutiae as footage of the opening of the gates and the stampede that followed. By the way, the guy in the grey suit who bolted once he got through the turnstiles? He wouldn’t normally run if there was a fire!
Perhaps the most telling aspect though, certainly from someone who first attended Randwick races in 1973, was the number of people lining the fence on Alison Road, which runs alongside the 2000m starting gates at Randwick.
Channel 7’s Richard Freedman reckons such a gathering hasn’t happened in 50 years and long-time scribe, Ken Callendar, says you’d have go back to Tulloch and the early 1960s.
Fortunately, it all went to script and, quite frankly, she was going to win her third $4 million Group One Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes a long way from home.
Easy to say after the event? Sure. Don Bradman got out for a duck in his last test innings, Greg Norman led by six shots going into the last round of the 1996 US Masters and Lonhro finished second to Grand Armee in the 2004 Queen Elizabeth, but Winx was just unstoppable on Saturday. She is the fairytale.
There’s little doubt the trainer is worth a ballad too: Chris Waller will never be short of fans, but to have that mare on song, for so long – 1,428 days – is, well, simply phenomenal.
Think about, also, what Winx has done for Australian breeding and racing: she won 33 in a row, 25 of those at Group One level … both records. Four Cox Plates, another record. $26,451,174 in prizemoney – a glowing advertisement for an industry whose stakes money has increased by 84% in the last 10 years.
She was sold for just $230,000 at the 2013 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale, again illustrating that the vast majority of Group One winners in Australia are offered at sales (63% compared to less than 40% in Europe).
And here’s another important statistic that appears in the Aushorse Investors’ Guide … one in every 244 people in Australia own a share in a racehorse. How many of those are due, or will be due, to the Win(X) factor?
On top of all that, Winx has been rated – either on her own or jointly – the best racehorse in the world since March 2018. She just didn’t make US notice!
For the record, Winx’s first start was in the IBIS Milano Restaurant Handicap for 2YOs over 1100m at Warwick Farm on Wednesday, 4 June 2014. She won by three quarters of a length, but we’re not sure how many people watched the race.
We’re not sure how many people watched her last race either, but the race is named after arguably the world’s biggest racing fan whom, we’re tipping, had the telly switched on at 6.05am on Saturday. She’s definitely a Winx disciple.
As for the rest of us, it’s difficult to know when we mostly jumped on board? That first Cox Plate (2015)? Definitely by the second?
It doesn’t matter really. Somewhere along the way she grabbed a nation’s soul and won’t let go anytime soon.
No wonder it’s so hard to say goodbye. Thanx!