Winx (Courtesy of the Steve Hart/Skyracing World)
by Alastair Bull
Another Australian autumn, another Winx wipeout – but will the rest of the world get a chance to see her?
Winx was ranked the best turf horse, and the best mare, in the world last year, and she did nothing in her four-race Sydney autumn campaign to suggest anything had changed. She’s now extended her win streak to 17, and gone two complete Australian seasons (which run from August-July) unbeaten.
About the only new thing the autumn races showed was that Winx is equally adept on heavy turf as on firm turf.
She was nearly withdrawn from the Chipping Norton Stakes Feb. 25 until trainer Chris Waller determined the track was safe. Winx won that by two lengths, and then took the George Ryder Stakes on a similarly heavy track by 7-1/4 lengths.
Her final autumn start, the $A4 million ($US3 million) Queen Elizabeth Stakes, was the expected foregone conclusion.
There will be racegoers outside Australia who wonder if Winx truly deserves to be called the best turf horse in the world, or the best mare, given she hasn’t raced outside her homeland. If so, the same questions could probably have been asked about Frankel and American Pharoah. Ultimately, the performances and form lines of all three speak for themselves.
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However, the chance of seeing Winx race in the northern hemisphere is an exciting one, and her connections have suggested they aren’t immune to the idea, though it’s not the first priority.
At this point, it looks like the earliest Winx would be seen in the north is 2018. The main aim for the second half of 2017 remains the Cox Plate in Melbourne, where she would aim to join Kingston Town as the only horses to win Australia’s premier all-aged 1-1/4 mile test three times.
If she does head north in 2018, Royal Ascot is the likely aim, probably for the 1 mile Queen Anne Stakes, won by Tepin in 2016. There have also been suggestions that she could take on a wider European campaign if she did head north.
Whether Waller could get her to Europe at her best in mid-2018 is another question. Though she’s close to peak now, she would be a late-season 6-year-old to southern hemisphere time for Royal Ascot 2018 (seven to northern hemisphere time), and there must be some question if she can sustain it. Australians also remember that Royal Ascot was very nearly the undoing of Black Caviar, who was many lengths below her best when narrowly winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Winx almost certainly won’t leave Australia unless her team believe she’s at her best.
The chances of seeing Winx in the United States are probably not high.
The only race that’s likely to be of interest is the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and given that it’s worth less than the Cox Plate, run around the same time, her connections may find there’s little to gain.
Though there are three Breeders’ Cup Challenge races in Australia, the connections of the winners of those races haven’t found it tempting to contest the Breeders’ Cup, especially as the Melbourne spring carnival is worth so much money. The most likely Australian Breeders’ Cup Challenge victor that could head to the big raceday itself could be a 4-year-old colt whose northern hemisphere shuttle stallion potential would increase by winning a race like the Mile. But as horses like Exceed And Excel and Fastnet Rock have shown, Australian horses don’t need a northern hemisphere racing career to succeed as shuttle sires in the north.
If Winx does find her way to the northern hemisphere, it will be great for racing. If she doesn’t, it’s not too difficult for anyone in North America to watch her Australian races, or bet on her. It will be worth it.
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#WINX Here it is! Watch WINX win the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on Day 2 of the Championships from https://t.co/dqO5hljcFF pic.twitter.com/c6AEwLU9q4— Sky Racing World (@SkyRacingWorld) April 8, 2017