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Homeracing

Winx blitzes Cox Plate foes, raises hopes of Royal Ascot

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

October 22nd, 2016

“This is a blitz – it’s a Winx blitz!”

Racecaller Greg Miles provided the best summary of Winx’s jaw-dropping victory in Saturday’s Cox Plate (G1), where she didn’t merely defend her title. The wondermare annihilated the pretenders to her crown by eight lengths. According to Racing.com’s Brad Bishop, that’s a record margin in the history of the Cox Plate, Australia’s championship weight-for-age race (as opposed to the Melbourne Cup [G1], which is a handicap).

Winx has now set records in both of her Cox Plate triumphs. Last year, she obliterated the course mark established by the great Might and Power when covering Moonee Valley’s 2,040 meters in 2:02.98. Soft ground Saturday ensured there’d be no time records for this renewal, so Winx just went out and broke a different one.

Now the winner of 13 in a row, Winx has cemented her status as a legend, alongside fellow dual Cox Plate winners like *Phar Lap and Sunline. Trainer Chris Waller is now eyeing a Cox Plate three-peat in 2017 – to equal the record held by the one and only Kingston Town.

But after seeing Winx whizz around Australian tracks, international racing fans clamor for her to strut the world stage. Waller tantalizingly hinted that Royal Ascot may be on the agenda.

Dare we hope? If she goes to the Queen Anne (G1) down the straight mile, could anyone live with her? If she opted for the about 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s (G1), could French star Almanzor match her change of gear?

Winx’s Cox Plate heroics have left no doubt about her world-class ability. In 2015, she dusted a colt the caliber of Highland Reel back in third, and this time, she trounced Andre Fabre’s French Group 1 hero Vadamos.

On a line through Vadamos, Winx can claim superiority over Aidan O’Brien’s seven-time Group 1 winner Minding. The international classifications gurus will boost Winx’s rating now, and she may challenge (or even overtake) California Chrome for the world’s top spot.

And as cleanly as the formlines stack up on paper, perhaps the most compelling evidence is the startling visuals furnished by Winx herself.

Perfectly handled by regular rider Hugh Bowman, the odds-on favorite bided her time early as a too-keen Vadamos opened up on the backstretch. The field caught up to him on the far turn, with Black Heart Bart putting his head in front before Godolphin’s multiple Group 1 hero Hartnell overtook him. But Winx had been shadowing second favorite Hartnell, effortlessly covering his move, and outsprinting them all in a devastating circling move on the far outside. The stretch run was just a question of how far.

Hartnell held second by three-quarters of a length from top-class sophomore filly Yankee Rose. Vadamos wound up fourth in the 10-horse field.

Brenton Avdulla, who rode sixth-placer Happy Clapper, captured the spirit of the occasion in a tweet:

“In 40 years’ time I will be able to say that I was in the 2016 Cox Plate when Winx spanked us and proved she was one of the greats of all time.”

James McDonald, Hartnell’s rider, was left searching for words.

“Wow, I don’t know what to say,” McDonald told Racenet.com.au. “I was going all right too. To be fair to my fella, he tried hard and it’s definitely not his track. Winx got to him fairly quick and put him under pressure a fair way from home. Trying to navigate my way around the last bend was a bit difficult for him.

“He was brave in defeat, but she’s unreal.”

Bowman pretty much knew what was going on in McDonald’s mind as Winx attacked Hartnell.

“I think James was quietly confident, but when I started to, you know, put the pressure on to him, I think he realized,” Bowman told Racingandspots.com.au.

Waller had sounded confident pre-race, but Winx even took her trainer by surprise.

“I thought she could win, but not like that,” Waller said.

Photo courtesy of At the Races via Twitter

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