By Greg Prichard
We’re now set for what will be one of the biggest days in the history of Australian racing after Winx blitzed the opposition in The Agency George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill yesterday.
The wonder mare’s trainer, Chris Waller, likes to talk about grand finals for his horses and Winx has won through to hers.
Randwick is going to be packed to the rafters to farewell one of the all-time greats – perhaps the greatest ever – when she races for the last time in the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 13.
The seven-year-old’s final campaign went up a notch in front of a big Golden Slipper day crowd and she was worth every bit of the spotlight she was afforded.
Jockey Hugh Bowman typically kept Winx out of trouble, back in the field and on the outside in the 1500m event, and when the race got serious he circled the field on her to join the leaders upon straightening.
The rest was conversation as she bolted clear halfway down the straight to win as she liked and make it an incredible 32 wins in a row, an Australian record, and 24 Group Ones, a world record.
The roar from the big crowd was spine-tingling and when Bowman brought her back after the win he gave everyone who had made the trip what they wanted.
First, as Winx stood and posed, Bowman saluted the crowd and then cantered her way down the straight so everyone at the track could get a good, close-up look at her before returning to scale.
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) March 23, 2019
It was almost like a post-Cox Plate winning celebration and so it should have been. Amazingly, Winx doesn’t seem to lose anything as she gets older. In fact, she seems to get better.
And it was her fourth straight Ryder win. Just like her four Cox Plates and four Chipping Norton Stakes. She tends to make a habit of winning.
But there will be no thought of Winx racing on in the spring.
Two of her owners, Peter Tighe and Debbie Kepitis, said in the lead-up to the race there would be no second-guessing the decision to make this her last preparation and after yesterday’s race trainer Chris Waller emphasised that point.
“She is at her best,” he said. “She will retire at her best, which I think is the best way to go. If she raced on next season and was beaten, I would never forgive myself. As you know in racing, that can happen.”
Tighe described Winx as “out of this world”, adding: “She did what she does best and put them all to the sword. She means the world to us. We’re loving every minute of it.
“If everything is all right with her pulling up we will be back in three weeks and hopefully finish her career on a winning day.”
The final word goes to Bowman, who, after all, had the best seat in the house.
“When I asked her to stretch she responded and you could hear the crowd roar,” he said.
“The excitement and the emotion, she responds to that as well as anything else, and once again I am just so proud of her and so proud to be a part of it all.”