Winx drives late to capture the Warwick Stakes in a heart stopping finish (Lisa Grimm)
One of the toughest tasks for most racing journalists is the immediacy of it all. The rush to rhetoric and relevance through which to meet a deadline.
So, spare a thought for the scribes and talking heads on Saturday who sought to adequately describe what they had just seen in the Group Two Bob Ingham Warwick Stakes over 1400m at Royal Randwick.
Most of us thought that Winx’s return to racing would be a mere formality – an 18th straight win to be sure, but nevertheless just another stepping stone to the more important task at hand: a third straight Cox Plate.
Someone tore up the script though … while plenty of bums leave seats for the closing stages of any Winx appearance, patrons were on their feet from the get-go this time as the mighty mare bungled the start and immediately gave her weight for age rivals a four to five length buffer.
Quick, hand me the heart pills.
After all, those rivals were far from easybeats – two of them are Group One winners and, all bar two, multiple stakes winners. The pair without black type victories have both run Group One seconds.
So, it appeared for a long time there that 18 straight might have to be left to the next genuine legend, particularly when stablemate, Foxplay, took an ‘unassailable’ lead.
Unassailable? Well, for just about every other horse you’ve ever seen.
But Winx showed yet again why people pay to come and see horses run around in circles, for she is the very essence of horse racing. It’s not the $13 million and it’s not the trainer, jockey and owners … as popular as they might be.
It’s the champion that climbs off the mat, even when you don’t think they can.
Emotion aside, trainer Chris Waller probably summed it up best by comparing the preps for both Winx and Foxplay leading into the Warwick Stakes.
“Foxplay has had everything Winx has had,” Waller explains. “They went out together 16 weeks ago to spell together. They did the same pre-training. They live together.”
It’s also worth remembering that Foxplay has won five of 14 with four seconds and over $1.2 million in prizemoney. Last time in, the mare won the Group Two Phar Lap and two starts later, the Group One Queen of the Turf before a spell.
Yes, Foxplay is a great horse.
The other one is Winx.
That last 100m of the Warwick Stakes was pure theatre. Immediately following Winx’s last gasp victory, the thesaurus got a good old workout: amazing, awesome, astounding, astonishing, awe-inspiring … and that’s just the As.
Well, deadlines have now long since passed, but even days later there is still no adequate description for what Winx did in the 2017 Warwick Stakes.
Part-owner, Debbie Kepitis made the point that it was even more special to win a race named in honour of her father, Bob Ingham, but the Warwick Stakes has no special place in the pantheon of Australia’s best races, despite keeping company with Bernborough, Kingston Town and Lonhro over the years. And Winx last year of course.
No, the Warwick Stakes won’t be remembered as Winx’s best performance – last year’s Cox Plate would be just about impossible to toss – but that race on Saturday will undoubtedly go down as her most courageous.
So, the next time you think you hear the fat lady singing, just make sure lady Winx ain’t still runnin’.
HOOFNOTE: Following the release of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings (1 January – 6 August 2017) last week, Australian-bred, Winx, was rated 132: the best turf horse on the planet and just two points shy of the horse considered to be the globe’s number one, Arrogate.
That was despite Dubai World Cup winner, Arrogate being soundly beaten (by over 15 lengths) in the Del Mar San Diego Handicap on 22 July.
Arrogate was again defeated on Sunday morning our time when second behind stablemate Collected in the Grade One TVG Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar. Collected’s previous best performance was a Group Two win at Santa Anita in April.
It will be interesting to see how Winx rates when the next rankings are released on 14 September.