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

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • August 21st 2017 @ 7:15am
      Rob said | August 21st 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      Great article Cam, amazing win and captures the moment on track beautifully and a moment rarely seen in racing with no money on the line!

      Thinking of that 3rd cup and Miles call still brings the biggest smile to my face.

      • Columnist

        August 21st 2017 @ 8:50am
        Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Miles barely called Makybe during her first two Cups, and he missed her hitting the front in the second, but that line made up for it all.

    • Columnist

      August 21st 2017 @ 8:07am
      Ryan O'Connell said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      I think that race pipped Chautauqua’s as the best race I’ve seen.

      Just outstanding. Goosebumps stuff.

      • Columnist

        August 21st 2017 @ 8:51am
        Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        There is nothing like a fast finish from nowhere to really capture the thrill of racing. Chautauqua has made it an art form, but this was even better given the streak that Winx is on!

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2017 @ 8:30am
      kv joef said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      Agree Cam – what a race performance. At no stage until she hit the front did i think she was going to win. everything was against her, even when he tried to sneak into the race, he still gets pushed back to last … but like Bowman said … “just believe in the engine” and the determination of a champion.

      • Columnist

        August 21st 2017 @ 8:59am
        Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        To break 11 seconds in three consecutive splits is just phenomenal. It was a jaw-dropping performance.

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2017 @ 8:58am
      Will Sinclair said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Great stuff Cam.

      It was just a stunning moment, when she missed the start. So unexpected, so dramatic.

      And she really looked beaten at the 150m mark or thereabouts. Foxplay is no mug, and she ran a hell of a race. To beat her, Wnx had to run 10.92 / 10.24 / 10.72 in consecutive furlongs, which is just unbelievable.

      Hopefully she will sweep all before her, and confirm her status as the best horse in my lifetime (best ever?) by winning a third Cox Plate… but this race was the one that stamped her as extraordinary.

      (Just as I’ll always remember Black Caviar surging to overcome Hay List in the TJ Smith at Randwick ahead of any of her easy victories.)

      • Columnist

        August 21st 2017 @ 9:02am
        Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Yeah, I felt that win in the TJ was BC’s best too, because Hay List was at the absolute top of his game, and there was just a second there when it looked like he’d stolen a break. And yet she won by three lengths! And Hay List was five lengths in front of third…

        Foxplay could well be a moral in her next start, assuming she avoids Winx. It’s always good to see the returning four year olds in form, after their three year old season.

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2017 @ 8:59am
      Will Sinclair said | August 21st 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      By the way, what a bloody great day of racing it was… and in mid-August!

      Love it.

    • August 21st 2017 @ 9:13am
      Haradasun said | August 21st 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      Glad i was there to see her. It was an amazing sustained run to win. There was a massive tail wind so they were breaking track records all day ao maybe take her stunning sectionals with a tiny grain of salt. But just the smallest of grains. She is goat in my eyes already.

      • Columnist

        August 21st 2017 @ 11:07am
        Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        I think she’s the best I’ve seen too, Haradasun. As Bowman said, knowing the times that were being run, it could have been mathematically impossible for her to win. Almost!

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