‘Not now, not ever’: Rival owner concedes Winx is unbeatable

About 18 months ago Pat Webster felt Happy Clapper could be ready to do the unthinkable and lower the colours of Winx but owner Michael Thomas, a former bookmaker and form analyst, set him straight: “Not now, not ever.”

Those four words resounded with Webster as Happy Clapper ran one of his three group 1 seconds to Winx in the George Main Stakes in September 2017 before winning the Epsom a couple of weeks later.

“He is a horse of a lifetime for me,” Webster continued. “She is the horse of the century, the best I have seen. Sometimes you dream too big.

“Look, running second to her have been some of his best runs and if he had beaten her he might not have a Doncaster last year, which was my life-long dream.

“Michael just said to me that she is on another level to any horse in the country and that hasn’t changed. The gap might have even got bigger.”

Happy Clapper will meet Winx for a ninth time in the Apollo Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, the most of any horse during her remarkable streak, and Webster admits another placing is what he is expecting.

Winx will be going for her 30th consecutive victory as she takes on seven rivals, five of them stablemates from the Chris Waller yard. She is once again a $1.08 favourite as she resumes for what will be her final campaign.

She will be the biggest show in Sydney sport for the next couple of months and Saturday will be the first of four possible starts before she will be retired to become a mum.

The Australian Turf Club is budgeting for between 10,000 and 15,000 punters for make the trek to Randwick to see an equine immortal.

“There are only limited amount of chances to see what could be the greatest horse to race in this country. This is a chance be trackside and say ‘I saw her’,” Australian Turf Club chief executive Jamie Barkley said.

“I think anyone who is a sports fan should try to get to our great racecourse of Randwick to see Winx.”

The four-time Cox Plate winner drew more than a 1000 people to Randwick for a special track gallop on the course proper last Saturday.

After picking up Apollo rival Egg Tart with a strong finish to that gallop, jockey Hugh Bowman said she was ready for the 1400m challenge first-up.

“I felt the afterburners for the first time this preparation. I didn’t let her use them, but I felt them,” Bowman said. “She looks after herself in her barrier trials so you have to take her on trust,” Bowman said.

“I haven’t felt that will to go and attack the line this preparation until this morning because she’s done all her work on her own at Rosehill and in her trials.”

Waller was delighted to hear his jockey so positive about the work of the seven-year-old mare, which continues to show a zest for racing.

“We know she is in the twilight of her career but to hear what Hugh said is just what we wanted,” he said. “She is an amazing athlete and is not showing any signs she is near the end.

“She is spot-on for the Apollo and she won’t do much this week. The work is done and we will keep it simple.”

Webster has also been pleased with his veteran galloper, which returns from a bleeding episode during the spring. Happy Clapper won his latest barrier trial on February 9, showing he had returned to the level that saw him rated a Australia’s second-best horse in 2018.

“The old fella is going as well as last year when he won the Canterbury Stakes first-up in track record time,” Webster said. “But he is meeting Winx, which means second is the best we can hope for.”

Apollo Stakes market

1. Happy Clapper $9

2. Patrick Erin $151

3. Brimham Rocks $151

4. Tom Melbourne $31

5. Winx $1.10

6. Unforgotten $20

7. Egg Tart $41

8. Aloisia $31