Winx has final hitout ahead of return to racing in the Apollo Stakes
NEVER before has an exhibition gallop on a track where there was no race meeting created so much interest.
But never before has there been a racehorse like the wondrous Winx.
This once-in-a-lifetime champion again demonstrated why she is the sport’s biggest drawcard with more than 700 race fans and a huge contingent of electronic and print media turning up just to watch her early morning workout at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Trainer Chris Waller had a dual purpose for the gallop – giving Winx some necessary exercise before her comeback in the Group 2 Apollo Stakes next week and providing an opportunity for the mighty mare’s many adoring fans to get up close and personal with the world’s best racehorse.
They took selfies with Winx, patted her, stood next to her, soaking in her aura of greatness.
Waller, jockey Hugh Bowman and owners Peter Tighe and Debbie Kepitis posed for photographs, signed autographs and shook more hands than a politician on the campaign trail.
Winx is so popular she just might be the panacea the sport needs after a week where racing made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
“It is great to see Winx get the following she deserves and the folIowing the sport deserves,’’ Waller said. “Winx keeps flying the flag.’’
Sydney’s superstar mare strutted her stuff over 1000m on the Royal Randwick course proper on Saturday, galloping outside of stablemate Egg Tart with the pair quickening from about the 300m before Winx edged about a half length in front on the line.
“I took a deep breath until Hugh (Bowman) came back and said she was fantastic. He said that she was spot on and exactly where we need her,’’ Waller said.
“We are hoping to see the signs that Winx is still Winx and is as effective as she has been throughout her career.
“We are very aware that she is in the twilight (of her career) but she is not showing any signs of slowing down.’’
Waller said the exhibition gallop will also help release any nervous energy Winx is feeling ahead of her comeback in the Apollo Stakes.
“This was like a pre-season game for a footy team,’’ he said. “A horse is like a person, they get pre-game nerves, pre-race butterflies like we do.
“We want her to be relaxed and everything going smoothly so having the gallop this morning, a trip in the truck, seeing the cameras and the people, it is as close as you can get to a raceday.
“You would be amazed the effect it has on the horse, she will be relaxed and ready.’’
The time and result of the exhibition gallop was immaterial to Waller and Bowman – this was more about giving Winx, a rising eight-year-old mare, the chance to show she still wants to be a racehorse.
“I haven’t felt that ‘will to go’ and attack the line this preparation until this morning,’’ Bowman said.
“I’m comfortable to let her do her own thing in (barrier) trials these days but I’m still taking her on trust that she is going to come and want to have that will when it counts.
“Judging on this morning it is certainly there and she ready to go for next Saturday. She wanted to put the after-burners on, I didn’t let her use them but I certainly felt them. Coming here this morning has given me a real peace of mind that she is where we want her to be.’’
Winx, who was jointly crowned the world’s best racehorse for 2018 with England’s Cracksman, is already at unbackable odds to extend her famous winning streak.
The mighty mare has won 29 races in succession and has been unbeatable for nearly four years. She has already won two Apollo Stakes (2016-17) and is poised to become the only three-time winner of the feature weight-for-age race.
She won’t lack for quality opposition with the likes of Trapeze Artist, Happy Clapper, Hartnell and last year’s Apollo winner Endless Drama expected to contest the race.
Winx is expected to have four starts this autumn culminating with the Group $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 13.
(Street Cry-Vegas Showgirl)
39 starts: 33-3-0
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Owners: Debbie Kepitis, Peter and Patty Tighe, Richard Treweeke
Group 1 wins — 22 (world record)
She has won 29 races in succession (Australian record)
Prizemoney — $22,904,924 (Australian record)