Winx Winning Streak Goes 28 Dramatic Victory Turnbull Stakes
Source: Michael Lynch /
Australia loves her, and no one here doubts that Winx is the queen of the turf.
And not just in her native country.
A panel of international handicappers – of which Racing Victoria’s Greg Carpenter is a member – has given her a rating of 130, which makes her the world’s best-performed horse racing on grass.
Yet despite her astonishing record, her 27 wins in a row, her 20 group 1 wins (a global record for a racehorse on the flat), her longevity and invincibility, there are sceptics and doubters.
Mainly they come from Europe, where, for some reason, they don’t seem to rate Winx’s performances as highly as horsemen and women here do.
There are a couple of reasons for their lack of conviction.
They don’t see her on a regular basis (unlike similar recent female greats like Black Caviar and Sunline she hasn’t run overseas) so they haven’t been able to witness firsthand her extraordinary acceleration and the way she makes good horses look like they are standing still.
Another factor in their cynicism about Winx’s record is their view that she is racing against a similar pool of horses year in and year out, more often than not in two states – New South Wales and Victoria – and rarely is extended beyond her comfort zone. They say she is beating up on the same rivals time after time.
Jungle Cat’s victory in the group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes in late September at Caulfield added grist to their critical mill.
On a podcast this week produced by the Racing Post, Britain’s leading specialist racing publication, Tom Segal, one of the Post’s most respected analysts, used the win by the Charlie Appleby-trained galloper to cast Australian racing in a poor light.
Although there was plenty of humour and banter in his delivery, Segal was making a point that Jungle Cat would not be competitive in a group 1 sprint in Britain, implying that the standard here might not be as good as people thought.
”Bar Winx it looks as though they are absolutely useless,” he said jokingly.
Carpenter, RV’s expert analyst, says that for anyone to castigate Winx or be sceptical about her level of performance is simply missing the point.
”She can only beat what is in front of her, and she routinely defeats fields full of high-quality group 1 winners and does so usually with ease. Her longevity is extraordinary, as is her versatility.
Highland Reel, from the Coolmore empire of Aidan O’Brien, was a northern hemisphere three-year-old at the time but over the next two seasons he proved himself to be an iron horse and set the standard for middle-distance gallopers at the highest level in Europe.
He was beaten by 5.5 lengths by Winx that day at The Valley, and on his next outing went on to win the group 1 Hong Kong Vase from Flintshire, a horse who twice finished second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, as Highland Reel did the following year.
During his globetrotting career Highland Reel also won at group 1 level in England and the US – hardly the form of a second rater!
Vadamos, who was beaten nearly 10 lengths by Winx in the 2016 Cox Plate, travelled from France with impeccable credentials, having won one of France’s top 1600-metre races, the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp just before he left.
Dominic Beirne, a former bookmaker, punter and one of the country’s most experienced racing analysts, also believes that scepticism over Winx is unfounded.
He will be in France this weekend for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and then to speak at a racing conference, but he says Winx’s adaptability and versatility – she has won at group 1 level between 1400 and 2200 metres – allied to her great natural ability, make her a standout.
”She is so versatile. She can run extremely fast sectionals due to her rapid stride rate, whenever she’s asked,” he said.
”Alternatively, if required, she can run sustained speed for a long distance.”
When she won her first Cox Plate she broke the track record, and, two years later, in 2017, she smashed her own record again – despite being given a safety-first ride by regular pilot Hugh Bowman, who steered her wide to avoid trouble, meaning she covered more ground than rivals such as Humidor, who ran second. The latter, a triple group 1 winner, is top weight for this year’s Melbourne and Caulfield Cups.
Carpenter says the numbers prove her greatness. Her rating by international handicappers has been as high as 132. That matches the peak performance of Black Caviar, while another horse, an Arc winner Dalakhani, also matched that rating.
”In the 16 years for which I have records, only three turf horses have rated higher than her 132 peak: Frankel, Sea The Stars and Harbinger,” Carpenter said.
”On dirt, only American Pharoah, California Chrome and Arrogate have rated higher. She doesn’t run on dirt, so that comparison is not really appropriate.”
”I do think it’s unfair,” he said. ”If she doesn’t finish the year as the most highly rated turf horse in the world it will be the only race she doesn’t win, because she has proved herself virtually unbeatable on the track.”