Cox Plate 2017: Winx the wonder horse captures a nation’s heart
Source: Colin James, The Advertiser /
NOT since the legendary Phar Lap has a racehorse started at such ridiculously short odds in the Cox Plate as Winx, the wonder mare which has captured the hearts of a nation.
Now widely regarded as the best race horse on the planet, she singlehandedly has brought Australian racing back into loungerooms and front bars as interest wanes amid sustained opposition from vocal animal liberationists.
When the six-year-old strides out from the mounting yard at Moonee Valley on Saturday, her growing army of fans across Australia will be cheering for her to win for the 22nd time in a row.
The daughter of an Irish stallion and Australian broodmare, she seems all but a certainty to become the first horse since Kingston Town in the late 1970s to win the Cox Plate three times.
Bred in the Hunter Valley by the owner of Steggles chickens and sold for $230,000 as a yearling, she has become the people’s champion, a freak who can come from last, seemingly changing gears at blistering speed to leave rivals floundering in her wake.
Her regular jockey, Sydney hoop Hugh Bowman, has described Winx as the best horse he has ridden.
“She is so well-balanced, light on her feet, and she can accelerate very quickly. But it is her will-to-win and her determination that makes her so good,” he said.
“I’ve never ridden a horse like her.”
Trained in Sydney by expatriate Kiwi, Chris Waller, Winx has ignited the Australian public in a way not seen since Port Lincoln-owned Makybe Diva won the Melbourne Cup three times, New Zealand-bred Phar Lap swept all in her path in the 1930s and Black Caviar won 15 Group 1 races before retiring undefeated.
Unlike Black Caviar though, Winx has tasted defeat six times but that was a long time ago, when she was a filly.
When — not if — she wins the Cox Plate today her winnings will surpass $14 million, joining Makybe Diva — owned by former Port Lincoln tuna baron Tony Santic— as the highest-earning Australian racehorse in history.
Such is Winx’s popularity that, like Black Caviar, she now has her own range of merchandise of baseball caps, stubby holders and flags in her owners’ colours of blue and white, with a very large white “W”.
Among those trying to challenge Winx today is the wife of Black Caviar’s former trainer, Peter Moody. Sally Moody owns a share in one of the eight horses expected to lose, Hardham.
Like virtually every Australian punter from Kalgoorlie to Cape York, Moody doesn’t really want his wife to end Winx’s winning streak — neither can he see it happening.
“It is a bit like a car race where you have people sitting on the corner waiting for a crash rather than the winner to go past,’’ Moody said earlier this week.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t happen — and it won’t. As long as her arse points to the ground, she won’t get beaten.’’
One punter is so confident that will happen they have put $106,000 on Winx to win — at the ridiculously short odds of $1.15, the same as Phar Lap in 1930.
Henley Beach artist Dana Richards is one of the hundreds of thousands who have fallen in love with Winx. She has painted the champion as a large oil on canvas.
“She is such a majestic animal and to paint something like her and capture her spirit was a real challenge. I hope I’ve managed to do it.”