By Ray Hickson
Winx is back and, in an ominous sign for any potential rivals in Australia or around the world, trainer Chris Waller dares to think she could be even better in 2018.
The champion saves her best efforts for race day, that’s why she won 22 on end but only one of 17 barrier trials however Monday’s gallop over 900m, at Rosehill wasn’t about winning.
It was about making sure everything is in order. And, according to Waller and jockey Hugh Bowman, it is.
Winx was kept under a tight hold by Bowman as she finished sixth, two lengths behind Golden Rose winner Trapeze Artist, with Everest champ Redzel, who led the 900m trial early, alongside her in seventh.
“I came here looking for exactly that and my first impression is I’m very happy,’’ Waller said.
“(The result) probably puts into significance what trials are like and what horses are capable of.
“In the trial Hugh could have ridden her on a piece of cotton. She did everything right. Maybe there is a little more improvement.’’
Watch Winx and Everest champ Redzel go around in a Rosehill trial on Monday won by Trapeze Artist
Waller has pencilled in a second barrier trial, over 1000m at Rosehill on February 5, for Winx prior to her expected return in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick 12 days later, a race she’s won the last two editions of.
That’s the same course that Winx staged one of a couple of heart-stopping performances in the spring as she came from a near impossible position to down stablemate Foxplay in the Warwick Stakes first-up.
It’s expected a decision will be made on any international trips after the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on March 24 with Royal Ascot being the main target.
In England on Tuesday (UK time) we’ll find out whether Winx is named the world’s best racehorse or whether Arrogate, who has controversially held that title for most of 2017, clings on.
“One thing we respect is how hard it is to travel a horse and to get her home,’’ Waller said.
“She will be the best guide. We’ve given it plenty of thought but it will be after her third run this preparation – probably the George Ryder – before we talk about her future.
“She’s a freak animal and when she’s at that level how can you run faster. Every challenge we’ve given her she’s risen to.
“The Ascot picture is simply to satisfy a lot of people that want her on the other side of the world to perform. To show how good she is. But the horse comes first.’’
Winx is in the house. The champ looking in great order. pic.twitter.com/h0PtALR78q
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) January 21, 2018
Winx’s record stands at 26 wins from 32 starts and 15 Group 1s to equal the great Black Caviar’s tally of majors and is easily Australia’s highest prizemoney earner with over $15.6 million.
Hugh Bowman, the man on the great mare’s back, gave his seal of approval on Winx’s condition saying she felt extremely relaxed in the gates and through the trial.
“I didn’t ask her to do a great deal, it was pretty much a morning out for her,’’ he said.
“I couldn’t expect her to be better than what we’ve seen and for me it’s about having her happy and if she’s happy the rest will fall into place.
“I feel as though she’s more comfortable at this stage of her preparation than she was last time. Whatever the reason I don’t know but for me it’s very pleasing to see her so relaxed and happy to be back.
“It’s special to have her back. I know the engine is there under her and I’m looking forward to the next couple of months.’’