Winx and Hugh Bowman after their record breaking 26th consecutive victory (Lisa Grimm)
“And Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer …”
Chris Waller wept too. No surprise there. Part-owner, Debbie Kepitis, as well. Again, no surprise.
But so did quite a few others because, after all, what we witnessed at Royal Randwick doesn’t happen every day. In fact, try never before.
Winx is simply sublime. On Saturday, in the somewhat appropriately named Group One Winx Stakes, she won her 26th successive race and added to her already world record of (19) Group One victories.
Winx’s Winx also eclipses the record of another immortal in Black Caviar who retired unbeaten in 2013 with 25 racetrack successes.
(Auspiciously perhaps, Saturday was Black Caviar’s 12th birthday, but for those who are in a rush to compare, why bother? Just be grateful that we lived in a time when we got to see them both).
And just like Alexander the Great, for Winx there are no other worlds to conquer as she continues to reign supreme on the global rankings: a position the mare has now held for many months.
It’s worth noting that the world rankings are determined by an independent panel of handicappers from both hemispheres and doesn’t come from a straw poll in the Randwick members’.
As for ‘Winx – the race’ it did look touch and go at one stage – especially with only 200m to go – but then we all remembered this is Winx we’re talking about and she soon exerted her control to win with two lengths to spare.
In what is rapidly becoming the most famous rider/horse combo since Roy and Trigger, Hugh Bowman was quick to mention post race that 1400m is not Winx’s ideal trip and, of course, she was first up since her $4 million Queen Elizabeth success in April.
Winx is, arguably, at her most vulnerable returning from a spell and although unbeaten now for all of three years and 94 days, she was 7th of 11 when resuming in the Group Two Light Fingers on 14 February 2015 and, remarkably, captured just the one race from five starts that campaign.
For the record – yes, another one – Winx became the first horse to win the Winx (formerly Warwick Stakes) three times in succession since Kingston Town in 1980-82. How ironic! All things being equal, come October, Winx will seek to become the first horse in history to win four Cox Plates after last year equalling Kingston Town’s three peat of the early 80s.
“What she does to horses is simply break their hearts,” an emotional Chris Waller points out. “It’s quite staggering … what she is doing for sport in Australia … we should all take a bow and say well done. I’m just looking for signs of her losing that dominance but haven’t seen one ounce of it. If anything, I’ve seen improvement!”
Bowman was also quick to concur with Waller’s sentiments as to the mare’s impact: “You see the crowd building up from the start of the day … lots of children here and that’s what I love the most. Parents are bringing their kids out to see a horse of the calibre we may never seen again.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Winx was also the first Group One success in Australia by a 7YO mare since Makybe Diva 2005 Melbourne Cup and we give our thanks to Bruce McAvaney for that particular nugget.
There is still a fair way to go between now and the $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on 27 October and we’re next likely to see her race in the Group One George Main Stakes at Randwick on 15 September before a final leadup in October.
Ultimately that equates to a lot of restless nights for Debbie Kepitis who, for many, has become the ‘face’ of racehorse ownership in this country: she knows what defeat looks like – her father Bob Ingham raced thousands of horses with his brother Jack – but where Winx is concerned she’s simply grateful #26 was run and won.
“I’m coping better on the morning of the race these days but the pressure is so immense … there is the weight of so many fans’ expectations and you just don’t want to disappoint them,” Kepitis reveals. “It’s not up to me of course but you feel the pressure nevertheless. Quite stressful really but you’d rather be in this position than not.”
Kepitis has some more tense days ahead – around 68 of them before the Cox Plate – but wouldn’t be drawn on whether a fourth Plate would be the wonder mare’s swansong.
“Obviously we’d love her to keep racing forever but I don’t think Chris (Waller) could handle the stress,” Kepitis says with a laugh. “As I’ve been saying for the last 12 months, Winx’s body language will tell us when it’s time to finish, or whenever Chris lets us make the call. Chris is wonderful like that – he’ll weigh up all the pros and cons and come back to let us make the ultimate decision.”
When that day comes it will clearly be hard for the Kepitis and the other owners to let go, but so too for the thousands upon thousands – probably millions – of fans. Did you see the looks on the faces of those in the crowd as Winx hit the line on Saturday? THAT is what horse racing is all about.