By Ray Hickson
Superstar Winx is giving jockey Hugh Bowman all the right signs as the champ closes in on her first public appearance of 2019.
Trainer Chris Waller hasn’t confirmed the date for Winx’s first trial of what could be her final preparation but there is a set at her home track at Rosehill on January 15.
That would fit in with Waller’s traditional path for the mare of two trials ahead of an expected return in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on February 16.
Bowman had his second feel of Winx in trackwork on Tuesday morning and said the 22-time Group 1 winner is relaxed and taking everything in her stride.
“She’s just been pretty casual in her work at the moment but she’s very happy, very relaxed. Probably the most relaxed she’s been,’’ Bowman said.
“She still works extremely well, she feels good and her temperament is good. That’s all we can go on.
"I suppose she will go to a trial and have us scratching our heads like she always does. As long as she goes through the same process and feels the same that’s all I’m looking for.”
Last year Winx appeared in barrier trials on January 22 and February 5 but missed the Apollo when Bowman was suspended and connections elected not to replace him and had a third trial.
She then won the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes and George Ryder Stakes for the third time before taking her second Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
It’s likely that Winx will take a similar path in 2019 and, if she completes the preparation Waller alluded to when he announced late last year she’d keep racing, it sets up an unmissable day at The Championships on April 13.
Bowman said he’s aware of the interim plan Waller has for Winx and the possibility that the ride could end at any point so he’s taking it one step at a time.
“I just go through the process with her, I don’t look forward or think forward I just turn up and do the work and go home,’’ he said.
“I’m not thinking beyond the trial and after that I won’t think beyond the next trial.’’
Winx ended 2018 as equal with English champion Cracksman as the world’s best racehorse and the leading mare on the planet.
Her winning run, which started at the Sunshine Coast in May 2015, has extended to 29 consecutive starts and she’s amassed $22.9m.
When it comes time for her to resume in the Apollo she’ll be chasing 30 straight wins at her 40th start – an amazing record.
“It’s hard for me to comprehend the enormity of the situation because we are still in it,’’ Bowman said.
“I’m well aware of the fame she brings and how popular she is around the globe.
“It’s been that way for 12 or 18 months so it’s something we are used to. There’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions but at the end of the day it’s all about the horse.
“As long as she’s happy and healthy that’s all that matters.’’