Five of the best from wonder Winx
SYDNEY'S super mare Winx seems to have the $3 million Cox Plate (2040m) at her mercy at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Trainer Chris Waller believes Winx is in the best shape of her career as she sets out to claim her third successive Cox Plate, her 22nd consecutive win, and secure her ranking among the all-time greats of Australian racing.
Winx's famous winning streak contains some of the most breathtaking equine performances imaginable so ranking her top five wins is nearly an impossible task but here are my favourites.
1. 2016 Cox Plate
Winx wins by eight lengths
Last year's race had been promoted as a match between Winx and Hartnell with both horses taking dominant winning form into the Cox Plate.
Winx and Hartnell made their runs together nearing the 600m and for a few strides it looked like this was going to be a real struggle - but then Winx asserted her superiority. She raced to a clear lead rounding the home turn and opened up a record eight lengths margin on Hartnell and Yankee Rose.
This was a most complete performance and earned Winx a career-high 134 Timeform rating.
"We were bullish about Winx's chances after watching her work going into the Cox Plate,'' trainer Chris Waller recalled.
"I remember saying to Hugh Bowman and the owners it will take a champion to beat us.
"It was a thrilling race to watch and to see her win like she did was simply unbelievable.''
2. 2017 George Ryder Stakes
Winx wins by seven-and-a-quarter lengths from Le Romain and Chautauqua
This was another example of Winx's absolute dominance, and also her versatility.
Winx had won over 1600m in the Chipping Norton Stakes before coming back to 1500m for the George Ryder Stakes on one of the heaviest tracks at Rosehill in many years.
Her opponents included multiple Group 1 winner Le Romain and the world's highest-rated sprinter, Chautauqua.
It seems to matter little to Winx who her rivals are, the track conditions, race tempo and distance because she is so adaptable as demonstrated in the George Ryder, winning by more than seven lengths from Le Romain and Chautauqua.
"I simply said to Hugh to get her out four-wide where the track was safe,'' Waller said after the Ryder.
"To see her win like that was breathtaking and the reception the crowd gives her is mind-blowing.''
3. Doncaster Mile
Winx wins by two lengths from Happy Clapper
Winx proved her champion qualities to overcome adversity and win the Doncaster. The great mare had to shoulder 56.5kg and mid-race, it seemed her winning run was in real jeopardy.
The Randwick track was bordering on heavy, she was back near last in a big field and was racing inside horses. Bowman kept his cool and patiently weaved his way through the field as Winx began to improve her position from the 600m.
At the 250m Winx emerged from the ruck and was reeling in the leaders when Happy Clapper momentarily looked like making a race of it. The great mare responded to the challenge, accelerated again and powered home two lengths clear for a famous win.
"This was the moment I first called her a champion,'' Waller said.
"I'm certainly respectful of the history of racing and to have a horse of your own to call a champion is an emotional thought, an emotional statement to make - but Winx proved to me she was a champion in the Doncaster.''
4. 2015 Epsom Handicap
Winx wins by two-and-a-quarter lengths from Ecuador
The Epsom was the race that made Hugh Bowman look at Winx differently. This was the moment when the jockey felt the mare was something special.
Winx was $3.10 favourite - luxury odds when you look back on it now - and she was trapped wide albeit with cover until nearing the 600m when she twice struck trouble.
The interference would have ended the chances of most horses but the mighty mare showed her remarkable athleticism to quickly regain her balance and then unleash a brilliant burst of acceleration from the 200m to win the Epsom easily. Winx was coming of age.
5. Sunshine Coast Guineas
Winx wins by one-and-three-quarter lengths from Ulmann
This was the race that started Winx's incredible winning streak - and what a win it was.
Winx had been beaten in the ATC Australian Oaks over 2400m by Gust Of Wind and just over a month later, came back to 1600m for the Sunshine Coast Guineas.
Larry Cassidy was riding Winx and positioned the filly at the rear of the 18-horse field until well into the straight. What happened next was extraordinary. Winx finished so fast that she nearly put two lengths on her rivals and won easing down.
"Her win was one of those moments you remember where you were when something significant happened and I was at home that day and couldn't believe it when she came from where she did to win,'' Waller said.
Cassidy has partnered many outstanding horses over his career, most notably the great Sunline, and after the Sunshine Coast Guineas he was moved to say Winx could potentially be the best horse he had ever ridden. How right he was.