Winx stuns again, there’s nothing like the theatre of the track

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Some of the greatest moments in sport come when we least expect them.

    At racetracks and in pubs and TAB’s around the country, hundreds of thousands of people were casting an eye to the nearest TV screen at around 3pm on Saturday, ready for Race 6 at Randwick.

    Winx was resuming from a spell, commencing her eighth preparation. Jumping at $1.10, standard odds for her off the back of 17 wins in a row, most punters wouldn’t have had a bet on her, or even in the race.

    Racing is a punters’ game, but every now and then a horse comes along that transcends the sport. Like Black Caviar before her, Winx is one. We want her to win. We want the streak to continue. We want to be eyewitnesses to greatness.

    There would have been a percentage of race fans that were only keeping a casual eye on the start of the Warwick Stakes, a race Winx won by an effortless three and a half lengths last year. Everything changed in a second, when the great mare reared in the barriers and missed the start by four or five lengths.

    I was watching the race in the Medallion Bar, in the Caulfield members. A gasp went around the room. Every second person seemed to exclaim “She’s missed it!” and there was an edge to the murmurings in the early stages of the race.

    Hugh Bowman didn’t panic, or if he did, he didn’t let it affect his judgement. He tacked onto the field over the first few hundred metres of the race, a length or two off the second last horse, and then crept up approaching the 800m, knowing Inference had been three wide the trip and could provide him some cover approaching the home turn.

    winx-cox-plate-hugh-bowman-racing-horse-2016

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Ecudaor had taken up the running, in his usual style. He wasn’t setting a furious pace, but he wasn’t walking either. He’s a good honest Group 2 horse, with a couple of Group 1 placings to his name. Foxplay is a class filly, and had enjoyed the run of the race.

    She made her move just before straightening and it was clear that these two were the horses Winx was going to have to overcome.

    Winx was spotting them 6-8 lengths at the top of the straight, and Kerrin McEvoy was going like the clappers on Foxplay during the 400m-200m split. In the meantime, Bowman had looped Winx around to be the widest runner in the straight.

    He’d already had bad luck at the start, and if his mare was going to go down, it wasn’t going to be due to bad luck at the end.

    McEvoy wouldn’t have known that Winx had missed the start, and must have been wondering where she was, waiting for the ‘whoosh’ down the outside. It was a long time coming!

    With 200m to go, Darren Flindell bellowed “Winx is four lengths away, she’s cutting loose now!” and his call gave us all confidence. It looked doable. At the time, we probably didn’t appreciate just how fast she was already going. She’d run 10.92 from the 600m-400m, and 10.24 from the 400m-200m. She’d have to reel off another sub-11 second furlong in order to win.

    Up front, Foxplay wasn’t stopping. Ecuador had found his second wind and was charging back.

    Part of the theatre of racing is the racecaller. The great moments have always had a signature line accompanying them. The greatest of all, of course, was Greg Miles with “a champion becomes a legend!” when Makybe Diva won her third Melbourne Cup.

    With 100m to go, it was anyone’s guess whether Winx could get there. Flindell roaring “it’s going to get desperate!” perfectly encapsulated the atmosphere and the nerves among all watching. 75m to go and she couldn’t get there. 50m to go and it was a maybe. But within a stride or two of that, it was clear that she was going to make it.

    And exhale…

    At Caulfield, the cheer was resounding, and there were high fives all around. The Medallion Bar burst into spontaneous applause, a rarely seen event for a race not taking place at the actual track.

    Winx had covered her last 200m in 10.72, making it three sectionals in a row of sub-11 seconds, which is basically unheard of. Her last 600m was run in 31.88. To go any faster, she’d need to have an outboard motor attached.

    Winx

    (Photo: AAP)

    It may well go down as the greatest performance of Winx’s career, which is different than saying it was her greatest win. There have been some stunning turns along the way.

    Down at Caulfield, and Hartnell put it beyond doubt who the second best horse in Australia was, given Black Heart Bart had some claims. The money came for Hartnell, most likely based on the soft track being in his favour, and detrimental to Bart.

    That said, it was an on-pace dominated race, and Hartnell only put the race to bed in the last half-furlong. Bart sat a few lengths behind Hartnell in the run, and that’s where he finished behind him. He’s on track to take out the Memsie in two weeks’ time, given Hartnell won’t be there.

    Saturday had shaped as the best day of winter racing we’d seen in Melbourne and Sydney in the longest time, and the day lived up to all expectation, if not surpassing it.

    Winx got up off the canvas to deliver a memorable knock-out blow to the Warwick Stakes field, and Hartnell further established Winx’s superiority down in Melbourne, given how easily he put away a quality field, and the many times he hasn’t been able to get near the great mare in his career.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.