The great debate: Racing experts put Winx in a league of her own

Source: RAY THOMAS, The Daily Telegraph /

IS Winx better than Black Caviar? How does she compare with Phar Lap? Could she be the greatest of all time?

The longer Winx’s winning streak continues, the more it creates debate about the mighty mare’s ranking among racing’s all-time great champions.

It was acclaimed Channel 7 sports presenter Bruce McAvaney who really ignited this topic in an interview with The Daily Telegraph three weeks agowhen he said Winx deserved to be rated alongside the legendary Phar Lap as the best Australian racehorses of them all.

“I didn’t see Phar Lap, I didn’t see Bernborough, I did see Tulloch once but to me, Winx is the best I have seen,’’ McAvaney said. “Winx is up there with Phar Lap.’’

Comparing racehorses of different eras is a difficult task — but everyone has an opinion.

On Timeform ratings, the one global measure of thoroughbred performance, form expert Gary Crispe has Winx on a peak rating of 134, which is the second highest afforded an Australian racemare behind Black Caviar on 136.

Phar Lap is the highest rated horse in Australian history with a rating of 141. Sports broadcaster Bruce McAvaney believes Winx (134) is up there with “Big Red”.

The highest-rated Australian racehorse is Phar Lap with a 141 rating ahead of Bernborough and Tulloch on 138, then Kingston Town and Peter Pan on 137.

As Winx attempts to equal Black Caviar’s record of 25 consecutive wins when she contests the Group 1 $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday, I asked a cross-section of racing industry heavyweights, including Crispe, what makes the mighty mare so good and how she compares with past champions.

“Winx still has the opportunity to improve her Timeform ratings so she can still climb higher in the rankings,’’ Crispe said.“Like all champion racehorses, Winx has that will-to-win that can at times turn certain defeat into victory. Determination is a trait all good athletes have and Winx has that in abundant quantities.“Of course many other less talented horses have a will-to-win but lack her natural ability — something that was dealt her at birth.

“She weighs in around 530kg, so she is big enough. When you analyse her physique and how she covers the ground in her races, she appears to glide over the turf but has devastating acceleration when needed.

Winx will aim to equal Black Caviar’s mark of 25 straight wins on Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick. Picture: Getty Images

University studies have revealed she has an above-average stride, although not as great as Black Caviar’s, but when combined with her ability to deliver more strides per minute than her rivals, it is not hard to understand why she makes up seemingly impossible amounts of ground in a twinkling and streaks clear. This is her edge.’’

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said Winx has an extraordinary ability to sustain her sprint for longer than other very good racehorses.

“Just look at her last start in the George Ryder Stakes,’’ V’landys said.

“The Punters Intel figures show that not only was her top speed of 67kmh the fastest of the race, her ability to sustain this saw her run the final 600m half a second faster than a horse as good as Happy Clapper, who won the Doncaster Mile last week.

“I also remember the Chelmsford Stakes last spring when Red Excitement raced to a commanding lead before being run down by Winx.

“Her 600m sectional that day of 33.1s was almost a second faster than the next best in the race — her sustained finish turning defeat into victory.’’

Winx has the ability to unleash devastating sectionals to breeze past her rivals. Picture: Simon Bullard

V’landys agrees Winx has an unbelievable will-to-win and stated the mare is “one of the best if not the best” having won 24 races in succession, 17 at Group 1 level.

“Her winning streak is across a distance range from 1300m to 2200m so her versatility is obvious,’’ he said.

Ken Callander, the respected racing media identity, has been moved to rate Winx above Vain and Kingston Town as the best racehorse he has seen.

“Unlike many modern day champs, she has won top grade handicaps (Doncaster and Epsom) and then beaten all comers in our very best weight-for-age races,’’ Callander said.

Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel has been officiating for nearly three decades and considers Winx the best he has seen live.

Van Gestel said Winx’s ability to overcome adversity separates her from other champions and cited as evidence her wins in the 2015 Epsom Handicap when she struck significant interference on the home turn and in the Warwick Stakes last spring when she missed the start badly.

Ron Dufficy, the form expert from Sky Thoroughbred Central, said one of Winx’s great attributes has been her ability to “attract a whole new audience to racing’’.

“We need champions like Winx to promote this great game every five to 10 years,’’ he said.

Dufficy said Winx’s champion qualities are many and include her longevity, ability to get out of trouble and to keep winning at all distances on any type of track surface.’’

“Every time she wins now she breaks a new record,’’ Dufficy said. “I’d expect most racing enthusiasts have her right up there with the best ever.“I’ve always thought Kingston Town and Black Caviar were the best I had seen but what Winx has done over the last there years, I have to put her on top now.’’Racing analyst Nathan Snow said Winx has usurped Black Caviar for his number one ranking.

“It’s hard to line up horses from different eras and different distance ranges, but Winx is the best I’ve seen,’’ Snow said.

“Black Caviar was as dominant in her races but Winx also has the versatility in distances and racing season after season in her favour.’’

Snow believes there are a variety of reasons which make Winx so great.

Black Caviar Racehorse Black Caviar ridden by jockey Luke Nolen winning race 5, TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney.

“She really covers all the bases — wet or dry, sprinting first-up or staying deep in her preparation, weight-for-age or handicap, fast pace or slow…..none of it matters to her, she has no weaknesses,’’ Snow said.

“But the main thing that separates her from the rest is not only her ability to sprint faster than any other horse, but to also sustain that sprint for longer than the rest can.

“The longevity of her racing career is the cream on top. To be a rising seven-year-old and still be at the peak of her powers after winning Group 1 races as a three-year-old is remarkable, particularly in this day and age of shortened careers for our stars.’’

One of Sydney racing’s best form experts, Dominic Beirne, uses his ratings database that stretches back to 1990 to anoint Winx as the modern era’s standout champion.

“Winx has the greatest bank of ratings on my database which commenced when steroids were banned from Australian racing,’’ Beirne said.

“If I average their best 15 performance ratings, the result is Winx by nearly one length from Black Caviar. For comparison, Lonhro, the champion of his time, rates more than two lengths behind Black Caviar.’’

Bill Waterhouse, the 96-year-old former bookie, saw Phar Lap and all the great champions since and believes Winx has no peer.

“It’s been shown that Winx might have the quickest stride rate ever. That would explain why Winx is so good,’’ Waterhouse said. “The horse population has improved over the years — better training, betting feeding and the improving breed.

“She is the best of today and it would be hard to argue that she is not the best, or close to the best, ever.“I wish she had been given the opportunity to carry big weights in handicaps. Carbine will be known as a great champion forever having carrying 24.5kg over the limit to win his Melbourne Cup rather than hiding in weight-for-age races.

“Shame the weight-for-age races are similar in value to the handicaps’’