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Waller's Winx Decision A No Pressure Affair

By Ray Hickson

Chris Waller says whoever replaces Hugh Bowman on Winx when she returns to racing next month need not feel an overwhelming burden.

It’s the most coveted seat in Australian racing and the champion trainer says the decision on who will ride Winx when she resumes in the Apollo Stakes on February 17 is one that he’ll likely make in the coming week.

“I’ll go back and scratch it out with the owners and put a few suggestions forward,’’ Waller said in a TV interview in New Zealand on Sunday.

Winx will have a new rider in the Apollo Stakes after Hugh Bowman's suspension. (Pic: Steve Hart)

“We’ll probably include Hugh Bowman in the decision as well because obviously there’s a lot of pressure involved with the rider of Winx, a lot of expectations.

“I don’t want to put any jockey in that situation that’s not comfortable with it. I don’t want him or her to think he or she may be the reason she doesn’t win.’’

Waller’s phone has been running hot since Bowman incurred his second suspension in as many days at Ellerslie on Saturday which, on top of a ban from the Warwick Farm meeting on Australia Day, sees him out until February 22.

Winx is scheduled to resume and shoot for 23 straight wins in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on February 17.

Before that Winx is due to have her second barrier trial of 2018 at Rosehill on February 5 and there’s a school of thought that Waller would use whoever is chosen to get a feel for the mare in the 1000m hitout on the course proper.

“Obviously there’s a lot of things to think about in replacing Hugh to ride Winx for her next start,’’ Waller said.

“I’m waiting to make a decision in a few days time, I won’t even name a day.

“I want to make it a non-fuss affair. We won’t give anybody a scoop, just send it out via media release and everybody will know at the same time and it won’t be a big deal.’’

Bowman has won 21 races (the last 19 in a row), plus one second, from 22 rides on Winx and has been on board the champion exclusively in races and trials since they won the 2015 Epsom Handicap at Randwick.

Kerrin McEvoy rode her in an exhibition gallop in March last year while Bowman was riding interstate but the Everest winning hoop is committed to riding Redzel in Melbourne in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning on the same day as Winx returns.

Five other jockeys have ridden Winx in races previously.

Jason Collett has had five rides and was on board in her first two wins back in 2014, Tommy Berry won the Phar Lap Stakes on the then filly in 2015, Joao Moreira partnered Winx to a second in the ATC Oaks – her last defeat – while Larry Cassidy was the rider when the winning streak began in the Sunshine Coast Guineas in May 2015 and James McDonald won the Theo Marks on her later that year.

Of those riders both Berry and Moreira can be ruled out as new rules in Hong Kong disallow a retained rider there from travelling for anything other than a Group 1 meeting, and James McDonald doesn’t return from his suspension until May 2018.

Waller said having to one day replace Bowman is something he’s considered in the past and he admitted the thought of the winning streak coming to an end has been broached as well.

“It’s something we’ve always thought about, she’s been winning non-stop for almost three years,’’ he said.

“We’ve considered these types of situations, as we have getting beaten one day, we’re prepared for everything.

“At this stage I’ve been thinking about throwing my phone away, it’s been going off with messages from all over the world, which we are honoured by, as well as riders in Australia and New Zealand.

“They’ll soon work out we’re going to make our own decision anyway.’’

Winx is likely to have either three or four starts in Sydney during the autumn depending on whether and when connections decide to travel to Royal Ascot to race mid-year.

Her program will include the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) on March 3, the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on March 24 and the Group 1 $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on Day 2 of The Championships (April 14).

Waller has long said a final decision will be made after the George Ryder Stakes.

Catch up on the results and replays from Saturday's meeting at Rosehill Gardens

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