August 13, 2022

Winx a natural around Flemington to hit 21

Winx can surpass Black Caviar and equal John Henry's Group 1 mark in the Chipping Norton (Photo courtesy of Racing Victoria via Twitter)

Australian all-time great Winx had never raced at Flemington until Saturday’s Turnbull (G1), but the celebrated mare reveled around the palatial track to extend her winning skein to 21.

Unlike her suspense-ridden victories at Randwick this preparation – in the August 19 Warwick (G2), September 2 Chelmsford (G2), and September 16 George Main (G1) – Winx cantered all over them in her most emphatic success since the Queen Elizabeth (G1) back in April. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Turnbull also marked her return to about 1 1/4 miles for the first time since that lucrative Championships event. The daughter of Street Cry had been winning despite appearing to want more ground in her three appearances in Sydney of late, and she got it here in Melbourne, setting herself up for an historic third Cox Plate (G1) in three weeks’ time at Moonee Valley.

Winx’s 6 1/2-length conquest was presaged by her connections’ earlier comments. Jockey Hugh Bowman stated that she prefers the left-handed way of going, and trainer Chris Waller observed that his stable star was at her physical best. Her richly dappled coat provided further testimony for the open-and-shut case.

Reserved in fifth early along the inside, Winx began to gain with ridiculous ease around the far turn. Bowman had any amount in hand as he steered her out for clear sailing, the only question being how far the ultimate winning margin. The champion inhaled them and ran up the score to clock 2:02.07 on the good course.

According to the sectional times posted on racing.com, Winx threw in five sub-12 second splits in succession. She reeled off her last 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :34.26, with a penultimate 200 meters in :11.20, and her final in :11.60, just for fun.

Ventura Storm, last year’s St Leger (G1) runner-up, was best of the rest. Humidor, the second choice after plastering Winx’s frequent victim Hartnell in the Makybe Diva (G1) in his latest, was a flat third. Trainer Darren Weir indicated that Humidor would likely add blinkers for the Caulfield Cup (G1).

Winx is an advertisement for Waller’s horsemanship, as Sydney’s top trainer had to adjust his plans in her build-up to the Cox Plate.

“We’re still learning about her,” Waller told racing.com. “There is no training manual to train a horse like Winx.

‘’She’s had a couple of tough runs just throughout circumstances in Sydney, and I wanted to miss a race early on, but she did have the barrier mishap and I thought, ‘I better get you back to the races’ to make sure we are on track in case she needed something more significant in terms of barrier education.

“So, that sort of threw me out a bit.”

Waller added that he chose the Turnbull, rather than the October 14 Craven (G3) back at Randwick, because of the spacing to her primary objective, a Cox Plate three-peat on October 28.

“So it’s three weeks and three weeks (between runs). It’s what every trainer in Australia would want.’’

With an international campaign next year, likely centering upon Royal Ascot, fans can only hope for a clash with European standout Enable. They’re the two highest-rated turf horses, with Winx pegged at 132 and Enable at 128 in the most recent edition of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings. Of course, much has to happen for that dream match-up to come to fruition – Enable has to stay in training, and the 1 1/2-mile aficionado would likely have to drop in trip to meet Winx, who herself has to stay healthy.

Waller is well aware of the challenges of an international foray.

“It’s a shame they are so hard to travel because if we could have a match race, an Olympics every year, it would be a promoter’s dream.”