By Greg Prichard
Trainer Chris Waller said the biggest challenge he and his team faced in the final week of superstar Winx’s amazing career was to not “bugger it up”.
It was his way of saying she couldn’t be better after an exhibition gallop before the first race at Randwick on Saturday, but also an acknowledgement that when you’re dealing with horses anything can go wrong and the last thing you do is drop your guard and rest easy.
Winx will have her farewell start in the $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick next Saturday.
She will be shooting for her 33rd win in a row, her 37th win from 43 starts in total and her 25th Group One success.
And it’s the responsibility of the stable team, led by Waller, to get her to the track in the best shape possible and then jockey Hugh Bowman to keep her out of trouble and give her the best chance of going out a winner.
So far, so good, according to the trainer, who likes to spark Winx up with a gallop in front of a race-day crowd to start off the final week of a three-week break between races for her.
“Today’s very important just to settle the nerves – horse, trainer, strappers, the team all around her, yeah everybody,” Waller said after Winx’s workout.
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“It does get to us a little bit and a little thing like today, it’s obviously for the horse but it helps all of us.
“I’m not sure what time she ran, but she’s had a nice workout and Hugh had her go through her gears and use herself. She looked pretty strong going past the post.
“She’s using energy and working and what you see in the straight is only a very small part of it, so we’ll take all of that into consideration, see what she has to do next week and try not to bugger it up.
“Everything looks good to me. Our job in the middle and at the end of the preparation is to maintain her, so I thought today coming here is like a pre-season game or like in footy finals when they’ve got a couple of weeks off. You just want to make sure everyone’s sharp.
“Not just the horse, but the trainer, jockey, and even for the strappers because horses feel nervous energy and we just wanted to make sure she came here today, has the pre-race jitters that any sportsman has and make sure she’s prepared properly without a stone unturned for next Saturday.”
Winx powered past the post as Bowman tried to hold her from going too fast. The jockey came back delighted with her work.
“Nothing really to report, very straight-forward piece of work and I think she pulled up better than I did,” he said.
“I’ll go and have a little rest before the first race.”
Asked how fast he allowed Winx to go over the closing stages, Bowman replied: “About 85 per cent over the last 400 to 600.”
Now we wait for the day of days, Winx’s final race in front of what is bound to be a sell-out crowd. It promises to be something special.