Winx, the glamour horse who is starting to know how good she is

Source: ANDREW WEBSTER,  Stuff /

Gerald Ryan said it three weeks ago after the George Ryder Stakes on Golden Slipper Day.

“She’s only just starting to know how good she is,” the veteran Rosehill trainer said as the six-year-old returned with her 24th consecutive win in the back pocket.

Do horses really know how good they are?

It seems fanciful to the outsider but horse people know they do. They see horseflesh in a different way to the rest of us. They see the way the horse walks into the mounting yard, gives a cursory glance at the crowd before walking onto the track like they own it.

As Winx strutted around the Theatre of the Horse before the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000 metres) at Randwick, she barely noticed the thousands of people, from all walks of life, staring down at her.

Model Jesinta Campbell was only metres away but she was overshadowed by Chris Waller’s glamorous mare.

“Winx, you’re a sick [expletive]!” shouted one young reveller before taking a swig out of a bottle of champagne.

Then Winx showed us just how good/sick she is, whether she knows it or not.

Hugh Bowman celebrates Winx's 25th straight victory.


Hugh Bowman celebrates Winx’s 25th straight victory.

 She won the Queen Elizabeth with such impudent aplomb that it instantly dissolved all these nagging thoughts that her time would soon be up.

After the race, jockey Hugh Bowman stood on his own in the middle of the straight.

“She was all in her stride, she knew she was just here to win,” he said.

Does she know how good she is?

“Yep,” he said. “Maybe she hasn’t found something good enough to see just how good she can be.”

Hugh Bowman and Winx pull away to win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.


Hugh Bowman and Winx pull away to win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The victory equalled the unbeaten run of 25 of that other mighty mare, Black Caviar, who had her last race at this track almost five years ago to the day.

In the week before the TJ Smith that day, trainer Peter Moody had told me — in between long drags of his cigarette — how the pressure of preparing a horse always expected to win was “killing me”.

Moody was in the winner’s circle on Saturday in his new job of Channel Seven commentator. After Winx’s victory, he took a final drag, walked over to Winx’s part-owner, Peter Tighe, and hugged him.

Only a handful of people in racing are fortunate enough to know success like this.

Tighe is also part-owner of Unforgotten, who won the Australian Oaks (2400m) in the race before the Queen Elizabeth. The Oaks was the first of three Group I’s for Waller, who also claimed the Sydney Cup (3200m) with nine-year-old Who Shot Thebarman in the race after the Queen Elizabeth.

That’s three Group I’s in a row. Some day out.

Greatness can be judged whichever way you want, but Winx has few boxes left to tick: She’s claimed 18 Group I’s; she’s amassed almost $19 million in prizemoney; she’s won handicap and weight-for-age races, over distances from 1100m to 2200m.

But what Winx hasn’t done, and won’t do this year, is win overseas. It might never happen but, honestly, who cares?

Instead, she is now expected to target a fourth Cox Plate, although Waller was angry the Moonee Valley Racing Club launched a marketing campaign about her within hours of the announcement that she would not be racing at Royal Ascot.

Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys is desperately trying to convince Waller to run her in the $13 million The Everest on October 13 before she makes her way to Moonee Valley.

Last month, in an interview with Fairfax Media, Bowman was adamant Winx could win the 1200-metre race even though it’s not her preferred distance.

The problem for V’landys is the timing. Waller prefers to give Winx three weeks between races, perhaps more so now that she’s a seven-year-old. This year’s Cox Plate is a fortnight after The Everest.

Bowman knows the mare as well as Waller. He’s a conservative, consistent rider and with Winx he can afford to be.

In the George Ryder, he settled her deep and wide. Normally, you’d be preparing to throw the champagne bottle at him in frustration.

In Winx, though, he has so much horse underneath him he can afford to simply keep her well out of harm’s way, knowing she will win.

This race was a little different. The blustery conditions meant he couldn’t be so conservative. He plonked Winx at the back of the field, racing with cover behind the others.

“I was concerned about being last in a good field,” he said. “I didn’t want to be there but with the track playing as it was I didn’t want to be sitting wide with no cover like I have been happy to do whenever I need to — but not today. I’m just putting her where she needs to be.”

Which you can, of course, when the horse knows just how good she can be.