Winx becomes the greatest Group I horse of all-time
Australia’s super mare Winx became the world’s first race horse to win 23 Group I races when she made 31 wins on end in the $600,000 Group I Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
The victory saw the seven-year-old mare eclipse the record of former champion Irish hurdler Hurricane Fly.
Winx’s Group I-winning record was already clearly superior to any other horse in flat racing having won at the elite level six times more than American champion John Henry with 16 wins and with Black Caviar on 15.
The victory also saw Winx emulate Tie The Knot’s four consecutive Chipping Norton Stakes wins which spanned from 1999 to 2002.
“It’s been one thing after another when it comes to records but she’s had a lot of great accolades and this is another one of them,” trainer Chris Waller said.
Waller is the most nervous person on course when Winx races and on Saturday there was an anxious moment when she reared in the barriers. Her indiscretion was followed by her stablemate Libran, who was subsequently vet checked, forcing a delay to the start.
“She’s always a bit edgy at the start of a prep and having to stand there for a while will do her the world of good,” Waller said.
Winx’s jockey Hugh Bowman added, “She was a little agitated today, more so than she has been recently, but fortunately they didn’t open when they pressed the button”.
When the starter finally set them on their way, Happy Clapper strode to the front with jockey Blake Shinn allowing Winx’s main danger to stride freely in the lead but his trainer Pat Webster said it was “just a fleeting moment” where he dared to dream.
“At about the 600m I seen Hughie’s elbows flapping, then I saw them stop and he was just looking and looking,” Webster said. “He was kidding to us.”
From the turn Winx started to eat into Happy Clapper’s advantage and headed him nearing the 100m before racing away until Bowman turned off the engines and Winx cruised the line to the cheers of her 14,831 adoring fans.
“Blake really made it a test today, as Josh Parr did a few years ago on Red Excitement, but she can cover all bases this mare,” Bowman said. “She’s just an amazing athlete, there are really no more words to describe her.
“When you watch the replay, at the 700m you would have thought well she’s out of business, and another jockey riding her may have thought that, but I knew when I balanced up, there was no way that Happy Clapper could sustain that speed, and I knew she’d have the energy required to reel him in.
“To be honest, although I was pushing her, she did it with relative ease.”
Waller described Winx’s fourth win in the weight-for-age contest as “certainly no easy feat” but said a truly run race played in her favour.
“I thought before the race Winx would beat Happy Clapper if they went too slow or if they went to fast,” he said. “What I’m saying is under pressure she’s very good.
“It was a good test for her and it will bring her on nicely for her next couple of runs. We didn’t want her to have a walk in the park by any means because they need stimulating and we can’t do it at home.
“Horses need to do it under racing conditions to get that final piece of race fitness.”
Happy Clapper will now head in a different path to Winx tackling the $5 million All-Star Mile next in a fortnight at Flemington.
“It was probably one of his best runs ever,” Webster said. “I just hope today doesn’t take too much out of him. That’s the only thing.
“That was a hard run today so he’ll be fit. He won’t take much work between now and two weeks.”
TAB.com.au trimmed Happy Clapper’s All-Star Mile quote in from $6 to $5 while they also reported they wrote their biggest ever bet when one punter wagered $280,000 at $1.08 on Winx.
Winx now heads to her home track at Rosehill where she will attempt to become the first horse to make it a quartet of wins in three different Group I races in the George Ryder Stakes before her likely swansong in the $4 million Group I Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 13.
“It’s looking good for three weeks time and then another three weeks after that is her grand final,” Waller said. “We’ve only got two more races to endure.
“I’m trying to enjoy it but it’s impossible. The day she retires I’ll enjoy her.”