December 1, 2023

Winx connections end Royal Ascot dream, decide to stick to Australian campaign

Winx remains invincible as she begins her final campaign (Photo by Steve Hart via Sky Racing World)

Trainer Chris Waller has officially closed the door on the much-discussed possibility of an international campaign for Australian wonder mare Winx.

In a statement released Wednesday, Waller explained that her entire team – including owners Peter Tighe, Debbie Kepitis, and Richard Treweeke, and jockey Hugh Bowman – made the decision to remain in Australia “based on the best interests of Winx.”

A number of factors were weighed, “from wellbeing risks associated with travel to seasonal changes her hormones may undertake.” Waller expressed his sensitivity to the fact that he has the “responsibility to continue to carefully manage her career as it enters the twilight phase…”

Although Waller was gracious, effusive even, in praising the intense international interest in attracting Winx to travel abroad, he offered a counterpoint. His wording comes across as a diplomatic rebuttal to the idea that she needs to compete internationally. Waller emphasizes what Winx has already accomplished:

“Winx is now the winner of 28 races, 24 of those wins at consecutive starts and 17 of those at Group 1 level. She has won on tracks rated from fast to heavy and over distances ranging from 1100m to 2200m, she has taken on all comers and won under Group 1 handicap, set weight and penalty and weight for age conditions. Winx has nothing to prove to anyone, she is and always will be regarded as a legend of the turf and it is champions like her that make up the fabric of this great sport.”

A little earlier in the statement, Waller politely, but explicitly, issued a challenge to the internationals to come to her:

“It is our plan to continue to race her into the Spring and hopefully Australia can play host to international visitors during our carnival.”

Thus Waller kept his promise about coming to a decision on Winx’s campaign following last Saturday’s George Ryder (G1). Next on tap is her title defense in the April 14 Queen Elizabeth (G1) during The Championships at Randwick, and then after her holiday, her agenda would build up to an unheard-of fourth Cox Plate (G1) back at Moonee Valley in October.

In his interview courtesy of the Just Racing YouTube channel, Waller said that the Cox Plate is not the aim, rather Winx herself is, and they will take it one race at a time as she dictates her terms to them:

Winx is now in the autumn of her six-year-old year, nearing the time that Zenyatta was concluding her career in 2010. She’ll be a seven-year-old mare by the time of her next preparation.

While it would have been satisfying to see the world’s highest-rated turf horse seek fresh challenges around the Old World’s greatest racecourse(s), connections obviously must put her wellbeing above all.