Another day another win for the Australian super horse Winx, who just keeps getting better.
In the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill in Sydney the champion mare set a world record of 17 for Group One flat wins – the six-year-old, trained by Chris Waller, moving past the mark of 16 set by American horse John Henry in 1984.
Jockey Hugh Bowman, as usual, coolly rode Winx to her 24th-straight victory, sitting back early before launching her charge with 300 metres remaining.
As Winx strode imperiously forward, she still had Invincible Gem, Happy Clapper and Godolphin’s own Kementari in front of her.
But when Bowman released the floodgates – the mighty mare let the power surge, coasting around the well-credentialed trio at the 200m mark as if they were standing still.
Happy Clapper, Winx’s perennial brides-maid, battled on bravely and for a while down the straight stayed with the champ – before settling once more for the runners-up cheque.
At least Happy Clapper is getting closer – the length distance was the narrowest the seven-year-old has come in seven attempts – ¼ length better than the previous best in the George Main Stakes last September.
Kementari, the James Cummings trained colt who was experiencing Winx’s glory for the first time, held on for third – the much talked-up challenge never really eventuating.
Although the winning margin was nothing like the commanding seven lengths in her last start at the Chipping Norton Stakes, the ever-calm Bowman said she did what she needed to do.
“It was a bit of a tactical race,” said Bowman.
“They are high-class horses and I’ve never treated her opposition with disrespect. I’ve always treated them with the respect they deserve.
“Happy Clapper is a supreme athlete and this mare is just better than them. I have so much confidence in her.
“She gave me such a thrilling feeling as she did everyone watching here today.
“I could feel the crowd erupt as we went to the front at the 200 metres.
“What a special, special horse she is and I’m just so grateful to be her jockey. Each horse is an individual but this horse has captivated the attention of the world.”
Winx out to break more milestones tomorrow. If she wins she:— Magic Millions (@mmsnippets) March 23, 2018
🐴 Passes $16 million in earnings
🐴 Wins a 17th Group One race - a world record
🐴 Notches a 24th straight graded stakes success
🐴 Makes it 57 individual Group 1 winners met and beaten
🐴 Goes to 1077 days unbeaten pic.twitter.com/mYNugQJA5u
For trainer Waller, the Kiwi now compares the pressure of preparing Winx to playing for the All Blacks. His only emotion at the end – one of relief.
“It’s like you’re playing for the All Blacks and you’re about to get dropped,” he said.
“It’s a sick feeling in your guts every time she goes around.”
But Waller had no reason to doubt.
“I can’t explain it. There has been a bit of pressure leading up to today,” he continued.
“She makes my job a lot easier because she does what she does.
“I was a little bit concerned when I knew Happy Clapper won so well first up and he’s a horse we have so much respect for and Kementari not just winning the Randwick Guineas, but winning the two lead-ups as well.
“They are two quality horses and it was good for her today. It made her lift.”
So what next?
Royal Ascot beckons and a possible date for the equine queen with the human version.
But Waller is not getting ahead of himself, stressing the race that bears the monarch’s name – the AUD$4million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 14 – will be the next stop, before any thought of meeting the real thing.
On that day Winx will vie to equal another Aussie-legend – Black Caviar’s record of 25 consecutive wins – and Waller will steel himself one more time.
“The intensity is just unexplainable,” Waller said.
“I don’t know why, or if it is just me? You enjoy the after part of the race, crossing the line.
“You have that sense of responsibility not to go crazy and make sure you are fully respecting your competition and where she is at in her career.
“Three weeks between runs is quite good, but the intensity in that last week becomes sickening if you think about it too much.
“I’m lucky I have got a lot of distractions. [But] she has sort of outgrown the distraction, she is constantly there.
“That wasn’t the case a year ago. You are just thinking of her all the time.
“Not for everything else, but to make sure the horse is alright.”
Waller can relax on that one – Winx is a bit more than just alright.
Just seven days out from one of the biggest race days on the planet – the Dubai World Cup – and the main event is shaping up as two-horse race between American champions West Coast and Forever Unbridled.
In a field that also boasts names like North America, Talismanic and Thunder Snow, it would seem unwise to reduce the great race to a head-to-head, but such has been the form of the two multiple Grade 1-winning runners it’s easy to understand why they have been installed as clear favourites.
And both lived up to the favourites’ tag with impressive workouts in the last few days.
West Coast, the champion three-year-old of 2017, owned by Gary and Mary West worked about-1200m in 1:11.80, the fastest of 17 breezes at the distance at Santa Anita Park in greater Los Angeles.
The son of 2000 champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Caressing is trained by three-time Dubai World Cup winner Bob Baffert.
Working with Cat Burglar, West Coast easily caught his stablemate at the top of the stretch and cleared him in the lane to stride out impressively.
Just a few days earlier in New Orleans Forever Unbridled was just as impressive.
Owned by Charles Fipke and trained by Dallas Stewart, the six-year-old daughter of Unbridled’s Song and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever blitzed about-1000m in 59.60 seconds at Fair Grounds.
A four-time G1 winner, Forever Unbridled is America’s reigning champion dirt mare after a perfect three-for-three 2017 campaign.
But she has not raced since her win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar.
“She went in 59 3/5 (seconds) and her last quarter (mile) in 23 seconds after getting her three furlongs in 37 3/5,” Stewart said. “She picked it up nicely the last quarter.
“She’s dedicated to winning all the time: every race, every work, every gallop. We’re very happy to be invited to Dubai and hopefully we can meet the challenge.
“After last year and her season, we’re confident in her and excited for the Dubai World Cup.
“She’s won eight races over eight different racetracks. She loves it wherever she goes and she gives it her all.
Dubai World Cup likely runners: West Coast, Forever Unbridled, Talismanic, Gunnevera, North America, Pavel, Mubtaahij, Thunder Snow, Awardee, Furia Cruzada
UAE’s Saeed Hamoud Al Khayari aboard 8-year-old Dahi was crowned champion of the Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup on a memorable day as he registered the biggest win of his career.
Al Khayari completed the four loops in a time of 04:20:28, over two minutes ahead of his closest rival and compatriot Ahmed Ali Saif Al Nassiri, who finished second aboard Vista Du Barthas.
The purpose-built Dubai International Endurance City played host to the prestigious CEI** 120 km Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup. HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, along with His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, The Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, were at the venue to witness the ride.
Speaking after the win, Al Khayari said: “This is one of the most important races in the UAE, and I am very pleased to have won such a prestigious race in front of the people of the UAE. There were over 400 participants, from all over the world, and it was a very strong field, with representatives from well-established local and international stables, and some top-ranked international riders, so this win was an important one for me.”