By Greg Prichard
Hugh Bowman said it would take years for the enormity of having been a part of the incredible Winx story to really sink in.
The champion jockey’s game-face is never out of reach, but ahead of the second last time he will ride Winx in a race he took a moment to ponder the superstar mare’s brilliant achievements and the understanding he has developed with her over time.
“I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in,” Bowman said.
“But it’s here and it’s real. It’s something I’ll reflect upon in years to come but at the moment, while you’re trying to get it all down and write it all up, I’m still in the zone and looking forward, not looking back.
“I think it’ll be years after before the appreciation really settles in, but I’m not oblivious to it. I’m very respectful of the situation and I don’t take it for granted.”
Winx will chase her fourth straight The Agency George Ryder Stakes, a Group One event carrying $1 million in prizemoney, over 1500m at Rosehill on Saturday.
All things being well, after that it will be on to the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick three weeks later for her scheduled final race.
Bowman is, of course, mindful of his vital role in helping to get Winx to the end of her racing career with both her health and stupendous winning streak still intact, but that doesn’t come at the risk of him second-guessing himself under pressure and his judgment becoming impaired as a result.
“I don’t think the key is whatever research you might do before a race,” he said.
“It’s just my time with her and riding her, that’s what it’s all about. All the track gallops, all the races, that’s where the understanding comes from.
“Winx ticks all the boxes, that’s what makes her so special. There might be other good horses, but they don’t tick all the boxes.
"They might look as classy as Winx if everything goes their way in a race, but it’s got to go their way.
“With Winx, it doesn’t matter how it goes, she’ll show her class regardless. In all conditions, from anywhere in the field, and that’s why she’s done what she’s done.”
Bowman is rightfully proud of his extraordinarily good record on Winx and paid tribute to her ability to just keep winning under any circumstances.
He has ridden her 32 times for 31 wins and a second, including the last 30 victories of her 31-race winning streak.
It’s right up there with the phenomenal returns of great associations like Jim Pike on Phar Lap (30 rides for 27 wins) and Luke Nolen on Black Caviar (22 rides for 22 wins).
Winx wins her third George Ryder Stakes in March last year
Several times Winx’s winning streak has been under threat because of either bad luck or daring riding tactics from a competitor, but Bowman has never panicked and has always trusted his knowledge of what she can do when allowed to get balanced before starting her finishing run.
“That is one thing that does stand out with Winx, for me, that I’ve ridden her 32 times and been able to come back with 31 wins and a second,” he said.
“That’s unbelievable, it is. And the other thing that stands out with Winx is the Group Ones she has won - 23. That’s extraordinary.
"Of all the stats, they’re the ones, for me, that really count.”