Winx’s 19th … Almost Too Much Excitement

Winx heads on to the track before the Chelmsford Stakes

Winx heads on to the track prior to the running of the Gr.2 Chelmsford Stakes (Lisa Grimm)


Nerve wracking – there’s no other way to describe it.

Let’s face it, we all thought Winx had gotten the unbelievably bad run (missing the kick by five lengths) / incredibly great run (winning regardless!) out of her system in the Group Two Warwick Stakes two weeks ago.

After all, the $1.09 on Saturday told us we should just put the Warwick Stakes down to a mere aberration, a blip on the radar, and that the Group Two Tatts Club Chelmsford Stakes over 1600m at Royal Randwick would be business as usual.

Turns out it was anything but. Heading for home, ‘cheeky’ Josh Parr had hauled Red Excitement out to a six length lead over the following bunch (even further for Winx) and the winner of nearly $1 million in career earnings wasn’t showing any signs of weakening.

And just like the Warwick Stakes, it looked for a good while there – was it only seconds? – that Winx was about to give the massive crowd what they didn’t want to pay for.

However, this is Winx we’re talking about and the mighty mare eventually overhauled Red Excitement – remarkably with a length to spare – to take her tally to 19 in succession and a whopping $13,183,430 in prizemoney.

The 19 straight equalled that of North American superstar, Zenyatta, who won the Group One Lady’s Secret Stakes in October 2010 and Winx’s victory also brings her one step closer to Black Caviar’s 25, who won her 19th in a memorable Group One Lightning Stakes in February 2012, defeating Hay List and Buffering.

Comparisons aside, there is no greater advertisement for the thoroughbred industry than

horses like Winx. She was bred in Australia (by John Camilleri’s Fairway Thoroughbreds), she was sold in Australia ($230,000 at 2013 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale), is owned in Australia and races in Australia.

Just take a look at the crowd on Saturday … sure, it is the start of spring, but it’s still all too often that racetrack patrons look like they’re there for business, not pleasure.

That’s not the case with Winx. OK, she’s business-like in the way she sets an agenda, but for the rest of us, it’s much, much more than $5 each way on No. 3 in the fourth.

It’s about feeling like you’re part of history … your chance to say you were there for one of the all-time greats.

To paraphrase Thomas Ford, we did but see her passing by.

According to Australian Turf Club’s Brett de Vine, Winx does wonders for the ‘gate’ with substantial increases in crowd numbers every time she starts.

“We’ve found there is consistently around a 20 to 25 percent jump in turnout whenever she appears,” de Vine enthused. “That was definitely the case for this year’s Queen Elizabeth and pretty much across the board for the Warwick Stakes and Chelmsford, when compared to the previous year’s figures.

“What’s more, we feel it will only continue to build and are really looking forward to the Colgate Optic White Stakes (George Main) Day on Saturday week where there should be another great turnout.”

Better still, it’s non partisan support. When the St George Dragons won 11 straight premierships in the 50s & 60s, a lot of people watched the games in the hope they would get beaten, but not so Winx.

Apart from connections of her 11 Chelmsford rivals (and the fact Josh Parr’s picture might have found it’s way to a few dartboards), everyone is hoping the streak never ends.

Trainer Chris Waller admits to concerns it might all have come crashing down on Saturday: “I didn’t think she was going to get there to be honest … I was more confident the other day (in the Warwick Stakes) at the 300m,” Waller points out. “They turned the race on, tried to break us up.

“It’s never what you like to see when you’ve got a horse like her chasing like that but fair play to them, it (Red Excitement) did run second and not fall out and run last.

“It just proves she’s at her best and pretty hard to beat.”

Hear, hear!

Hugh Bowman appears to have shared Waller’s concerns as well and, while one commentator swore the jockey has ice in his veins, some would suggest it was much closer to room temperature this time around: “I was comfortable in the first part of the race but I could see what was happening,” Bowman explains. “So I started to make my way closer from the 900m mark, but I still had to stay within myself. I wasn’t worried last start but I really was this time. What she did in the Chelmsford was incredible. Everything she does is incredible but I’m lost for words.”

That goes for all of us!

HOOFNOTE: Zenyatta was beaten at her 20th – and final – career outing when second behind Blame in the Group One Breeders’ Cup Classic. Winx’s next target, at this stage, is the Group One George Main Stakes over the Chelmsford journey on 16 September and it will be interesting (not to mention heartbreaking) to see what would happen if she did a ‘Zenyatta’. Still press on to a third Cox Plate?

Who knows? That’s tomorrow’s problem and for now we can just sit back and enjoy the ‘ride’ … probably a darn sight more enjoyable than what Hughie Bowman experienced on Saturday!

The Power of Passion