A look at Winx and the future
by DICK POWELL
The mighty WINX continued her domination of Australian racing last Saturday at Rosehill in Sydney and the question now remains is how good is she? And does she have to go to Royal Ascot this June to prove her greatness?
Winx has now won 24 straight races including a record 17 Group 1s. She is one win short of tying Black Caviar's record of 25 straight wins. At the start of her career, none of this seemed possible or even likely when, after winning three minor races to start her career, she finished second, second, seventh, fifth, first, fifth and second. Then the streak began.
The answer to the trivia question of who was the last horse to beat Winx is Gust of Wind in the 1 1/2-mile Australian Oaks (G1) at Randwick in 2015. It was the last time she tried that classic distance but unlike Black Caviar, who only sprinted, Winx has won at many distances.
During this 24-race winning streak, she has won races at:
6 1/2 furlongs -- Group 2 once
7 furlongs -- Group 2 four times
7 1/2 furlongs -- Group 1 three times
1 Mile -- Group 1 seven times, Group 2 once, Group 3 once
1 1/4 Miles -- Group 1, six times
1 3/8 Miles -- Group 1 once
Her versatility is due to her running style. Hugh Bowman can place Winx any place he wants in a race and then call on her acceleration to pass whoever is in front of her. So, she wins short or long, and it doesn't matter whether it is against male or female competition. Plus, she has won on ground listed as good, soft and heavy while going left handed and right handed.
One thing that sticks out when you examine her schedule is how Australian racing is conducted and how racing in June at Ascot is out of the norm.
Australia runs its major races in the Spring and Fall. Being in the southern hemisphere, their Spring is our Fall and their Fall is our Spring but they do not have many major races in Summer or Winter. Ascot in June is the beginning of Australia's winter and her schedule reads accordingly.
When she began her 24-race winning streak with two wins in May of 2015, she went on a 105-day break. She came back and won three more in a row before taking a 112-day break.
2016 saw her win four races in about seven weeks then she was off for 140 days before coming back and winning four races in eight weeks. Off for 114 days, she returned in 2017 with four wins in seven weeks again then after a 133-day break, she won five races in 10 weeks.
In 2018, she was off for 125 days and has now won both of her starts this year. So how do you get her to June at Royal Ascot? After the race, trainer Chris Waller said it was on to the $4 million Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Randwick going 1 1/4 miles on April 14, a race she won by more than five lengths last year.
So there would be about nine weeks from the Queen Elizabeth Stakes to whatever race Waller chooses for her at Royal Ascot. She is used to running off layoffs longer than that but she always had a prep race to get the season going.
Many Australian horses have shipped to Royal Ascot and won. Black Caviar herself did it in the 2012 when the won the Diamond Jubilee (G1) but she had the advantage of two prep races in Australia before leaving.
Winx has won three Cox Plates (G1) in a row and is scheduled to try for a fourth in October. A trip to England during a period that she is used to being on break makes it tough on her. She will be seven years old in September.
I'm not saying that she can't but there's a general point of why does she need to prove herself when she already has? Very few horses ship to Australia (see exception below) but one that did was Highland Reel, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), Hong Kong Vase (G1), Prince of Wales's (G1) and Coronation Cup (G1). In 2015, he shipped to Australia (all credit to the Coolmore group and their trainer Aidan O'Brien) and was a good third, beaten over five lengths, by Winx while only spotting her one pound.
If Winx ships, she ships. I hope she can get through her next start and tie Black Caviar with 25 straight wins. Then if Waller feels that a trip to Royal Ascot is doable, have at it.
Everything that was right, and wrong, with Australian racing was on display Friday night. The A$3.5 million Golden Slipper (G1) was run for two-year-olds going six furlongs and it was won by the filly ESTIJAAB, who caught a flyer from post 17 and cleared the field to hang on by a neck over fellow filly OOHOOD.
Estijaab cost A$1.7 million as a yearling last year and is sired by Snitzel, who is the dominant sire in Australia. Despite the two-mile Melbourne Cup (G1) being the iconic race down there, their robust breeding market is designed for precocious speed, running for huge purses, and Snitzel delivers them in spades.
So You Think won two runnings of the Cox Plate, was third on bottom-less ground in the Melbourne Cup, then was sold to the Coolmore group and he won five more Group 1s in Europe. With his first two crops to race, he has sired the winners of the last two Rosehill Guineas (G1), a 10-furlong classic going right-handed. Last year, it was INFERENCE and Friday night it was D'ARGENTO.
With a race record and start to stud like that, you would think Australian breeders would be all over his yearlings, but they have been received rather coldly from them since he is not going to give you a Golden Slipper winner.
In fact, seven of the last eight Melbourne Cup winners were not bred in Australia or New Zealand and it would be worse if the quarantine rules on Japanese imports were loosened. Breeders that value precocious speed over classic running ability? Where have I heard that before?
(Photo: Racing Victoria Twitter)