Remembering Winx’s First Day In The Sun

Winx continues her remarkable winning record posting her 17th straight victory in the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sharon Lee Chapman).


It wasn’t like anyone hadn’t heard of her. After all, she’d won her first three including the Group Two Furious (beating a Blue Diamond winner), had won a Phar Lap, was Group One placed in the Flight and came into the Sunshine Coast Guineas fresh from a second in the ATC Oaks.

All up, four wins and three seconds from 10 outings.

But Winx was hardly front page news when Larry Cassidy was legged up on the then 3YO filly for the 1600m Guineas on 16 May 2015 … which would become the first of 17 wins in succession and the start of a ride into racing’s collective heart.

“Naturally enough, I thought she had to be a huge chance in the Guineas,” Cassidy points out. “It was a fairly big drop in class after the Australian Oaks so I was pretty confident, but the way she ran that day amazed me. Her acceleration is just incredible.

“At the 1000m mark (in the Sunshine Coast Guineas) I thought to myself ‘this is no good’ as she had all 16 rivals in front of her and it wasn’t much better at the 600m. The way she got going though was really something else. Breathtaking actually.

“I got home that night and my wife said congratulations on the win and I told her then that I thought Winx is probably the best horse I’ve ever ridden.

“My wife responded – ‘excuse me? What about Sunline?’ – and I said yes, she could end up being better than Sunline.”

In a highly successful career – unfortunately punctuated for 15 months due to several knee operations shortly after the Guineas – Cassidy has ridden a bounty of Group One winners, including Sunline to victories in both the Flight Stakes and Doncaster Handicap.

“Hugh (Bowman) had ridden her a couple of times previously and was back on her again for the Queensland Oaks and I was talking to him before that race and saying just how good I thought she was,” Cassidy adds.

“Hugh sent me a text after she won her first Cox Plate and reminded me of the conversation. The rest, as they say, is history. She just keeps getting better and better. A super horse.

“After Winx won the Cox Plate in 2015 a bloke came up to me and said ‘she (Winx) isn’t as good as Sunline’ and when I replied that I thought she was better, he came back with ‘how would you know?’,” Cassidy laughs. “I pointed out that I had ridden them both and while it’s very hard to compare horses from different eras, Winx is, in my opinion, the better horse.”

It’s a sentiment shared by the many thousands at Royal Randwick on Saturday and the many more thousands watching on screens big and small around the country.

Although prizemoney is hardly an adequate barometer, Winx surpassed Sunline’s ‘bank’ on Saturday, taking her career tally to $12,893,425 and, if she is to replicate her eight victories from this season when she returns in 2017-18, her earnings will eclipse the $19 million mark … making her Australia’s highest money earner.

Heady stuff, but it’s hardly about the money.

Sixteen wins and 23 months after Cassidy’s ride, Winx has carved out her own share of immortality. Better than Sunline? Who cares. We’re just grateful to have seen her passing by.

HOOFNOTE: Following the Sunshine Coast Guineas victory, Winx’s part-owner Peter Tighe was interviewed by the Courier Mail’s Nathan Exelby and Tighe declared he was looking forward to the Queensland Oaks.

“She got a bit far behind them … from where she was, I thought it would have been a nice Oaks trial if she could finish in the first four.”

How times change. Now it’s a case of anything short of finishing in the first ‘one’ won’t do.

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