Winx dominates again, but the stars don’t seem as bright after tragedy

Tristan Rayner Editor

By , Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor

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    There were extraordinary scenes at Randwick on Saturday, and while Winx furthered her incredible record, the sensational mid-race cancellation of the Sydney Cup due to a fall, and a death in country racing, gave us all pause.

    First to Winx, who motored home again for her 17th straight win in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), worth $4 million. She swamped ever-brave Hartnell in the straight and pulled away to win by more than five lengths.

    The rich purse took her earnings to more than $12,778,000, making her the second highest earner in history, and almost certain to eclipse Makybe Diva’s record ($14.5m).

    Again, it was a supreme performance, where she’s going away from the chasing horses so fast that they appear to be going backwards. Not many can do that.

    Further descriptions are getting difficult. She’s beyond anything in Australian racing, on any surface, on any distance from at least 1200m-2000m, and almost certainly further.

    It’s too soon to call her an all-time great but she’s not far from it. Perhaps in reflection, the lack of real competition will be highlighted more than it should – she can only race what’s in front of her. The good colts are being retired where they earn more with less risk, not that many have been special weight-for-age middle-distance horses.

    All you can say is that she’s brilliant and will prove the overseas doubters wrong.

    Always emotional for his special horses, her trainer Chris Waller said she’ll now spell ahead of the spring, which won’t have many surprises as she shoots to equal Kingston Town’s record feat of three Cox Plates.

    In 2016, Winx was first-up into the Warwick Stakes, before the George Main and Caulfield Stakes, contesting the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley as her final run.

    Sydney Cup abandoned
    The Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) was abandoned mid-race, as Racing NSW stewards and the ATC found themselves in the unenviable position of damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    Group 1 winner Almoonqith broke down just after passing the finishing post for the first time, forcing off rider James Doyle, and also causing Who Shot Thebarman to lose his rider in Blake Shinn.

    Chief steward Marc van Gestel made the unenviable decision, along with deputy Phillip Dingwall, to call off the race due to Almoonqith’s position around 100m after the finishing line. But without sirens on the course at Randwick, only a few riders were made aware of the mid-race abandonment and the race at the front continued with a number completing the course, in vain.

    Polarisation, for Charlie Appleby, was first across the line ahead of Chance to Dance and Penglai Pavilion – two European horses brought out just for the race.

    Stewards erred on the side of caution, which frustrated the jockeys that didn’t hear the call.

    The real issue wasn’t the decision to call off the race, but the lack of ability to inform the entire field evenly.

    Almoonqith, who finished sixth in the Melbourne Cup last year, was euthanised while Who Shot Thebarman got to his feet riderless, but was caught without serious incident.

    The ATC said an announcement for possibly re-scheduling the race will be made on Sunday, with connections contacted to find out how horses pulled up to decide the ifs and whens.

    Damien Oliver, on board Assign who was also ridden out, was just one of the jockeys who finished the race and fumed about the whole thing.

    “It’s a joke,” Oliver said. “There’s a lot of money at stake there, I’ve starved myself for two weeks to ride mine.”

    Perhaps Oliver will be re-thinking that call after hearing the tragic news of fellow-jockey Darren Jones, who passed away after a three-horse fall, on the same day.

    “This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to Darren’s family and friends,” said Mr Peter V’landys, Racing NSW’s Chief Executive.

    The two other jockeys in the fall were transported to Warialda Hospital for treatment, with Leanne Henry suffering general soreness while Melanie Bolwell was momentarily unconscious.

    Richard Freeman summed it up via social media: “A very sad day for racing. We lost two much-loved members – a man and a horse. Today while our stars were shining – tragedy stalked.”