By Greg Prichard
Hugh Bowman has provided a fascinating insight into why his partnership with Winx – which has brought him similar results to what the legendary Jim Pike achieved on Phar Lap – works so well.
Phar Lap raced 51 times for 37 wins and Pike rode him 30 times for 27 victories. Bowman has 28 wins from 29 rides on Winx, whose overall record is 33 wins from 39 starts.
The champion jockey hopes to extend his mark on the wonder mare when her final, four-race, campaign begins with The Star Sydney Apollo Stakes over 1400m at Randwick on Saturday.
Bowman has had anxious moments in several of those wins, including when Winx missed the start in the Warwick Stakes and was a long way behind a runaway leader in the Chelmsford Stakes during the Sydney spring of 2017 and was held up for a run in the Turnbull Stakes in Melbourne last spring.
But in each case the combination of Bowman’s patience and timing and Winx’s courage and brilliance rescued a win.
Asked how well a jockey has to understand a horse for the pair to be able to succeed repeatedly in so many races over several years, Bowman told Racing NSW: “I guess it’s something that has developed - the partnership and the relationship that comes with that.
“I understand her capabilities, and I have a lot of trust in what I know she can do, so on a few occasions when we have been in a position in a race where someone else might have panicked, I haven’t.
“I’m not saying there haven’t been times when I’ve questioned our position but, you know, I’ve never tried to make her be where she doesn’t want to be.
“I’ve always ensured she’s well balanced before I ask her to hit top gear and I guess that way of riding just suits her.”
Bowman said he wasn’t aware of the statistical similarities between his record on Winx and Pike’s on Phar Lap and that now wasn’t the time for him to savour his overall record on the seven-year-old.
“I’m well aware that I’ve run second on her once and won every other time, but to me right now those numbers don’t mean anything because I’m just focused on getting the next piece of the puzzle put in place,” he said.
“When the puzzle’s complete we’ll look back at it and enjoy it.
“The one number I am most proud of in terms of everything she’s done is her Group One wins - her world record of 22.
“I know some of the Group Ones she’s won have been against sub-standard fields, but there’s nothing she can do about that. Every one of those races has been a genuine Group One race and she’s never dodged an opponent – ever. I just think it’s an incredible statistic.”
Bowman said Winx’s manner and appearance in the days ahead of her farewell campaign beginning told him all was well with her.
“She’s certainly more relaxed now than she has ever been,” he said. “I believe her preparation for a first-up run this time in has been better than it was for the Winx Stakes last prep.
“The track surfaces have been much better for her and coming into the autumn off the summer I just think she looks better in the coat. It just looks healthier to a degree, that’s just my opinion.”
Bowman said he didn’t see much point in comparing Winx to the greats of the past like Phar Lap and Kingston Town because different attitudes and conditions meant it was hard to line horses up from different eras.
“It’s just pub-talk, really,” he said. “How many people would still be around today who even saw Phar Lap race?”