A couple of years ago I was moved to write about Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore’s performances to win the Cox Plate with Adelaide.
It was a triumph on every sporting level. The Irish trainer got it right with both horse and planning. This was followed by the perfect execution of race tactics by Ryan Moore.
This year’s Cox Plate renewal gave a similar feat by Chris Waller and Hugh Bowman.
Chris Waller’s training performance of the bay mare is on par with any in the world, past or present. Nothing was left to chance, just like O’Brien’s success a couple of years ago.
Everything from her gradual increase in racing intensity, ultimately culminating in her two trips to the Valley for trackwork preceding the Plate.
This is Waller’s time. He often said, “if Winx could win two Plates, then you could call her a champion”. She is a champion.
When your lifetime of professional experience comes together to yield this wonderful result, her victory, even the most modest is allowed to grin like the Cheshire Cat – for a week anyway.
Incidentally, Aidan didn’t have a runner this year, probably thought after last’s year’s demolition of Highland Reel, it would be a wasted effort.
Hugh Bowman probably rode the best big-time race I’ve seen in Australia for an age and some. It was perfect. He made the opposition run to his strengths, and had them busted on the turn. Then he maintained composure in the straight, flicking her twice with the whip making sure she didn’t clock-off and had a quality hit out. Perfect.
After the race, Hugh talked about being aware of the wind danger blowing across the track causing horses on the fence to falter and he made sure Winx wasn’t going to be casualty.
The strength if this year’s Cox Plate was as good as last year’s. Two of the best we have had. Last year, Criterion was returning the same numbers as Hartnell in finishing second and Highland Reel developing into one of Europe’s most competent Group One performers.
Last year, the authority of Winx’s win was questioned by many critics wanting to point to a perceived rails bias and she has doubter’s all along her journey. Many thought that Hartnell was to be her nemesis.
I was always of the opinion, she had nothing to apologise for and her form in last year’s Cox was true and the events of the last twelve months gave me no reason to waver. Only bad luck, a chance of halting her rise to equine immortality. And so it has come to pass.
There is nothing special about saying stuff. It is the doing that counts. Winx, Waller and Bowman have done plenty.
I don’t how the mare’s connections felt in the paddock parade, she looked great but these youngsters can drop their bundle for any reason and a I wanted to see her go on to the course. To see if the claustrophobic, cauldron atmosphere was going to distract or upset her. So she went out, arched her neck and worked off in an easy loping stride, she was all business. Seeing that, you just had to step into the punt again. She wasn’t going to be beat.
And what followed. We are not going to forget that in a hurry.
A few weeks ago, I commented that Winx wasn’t really being given her due on her home turf, even though for the last twelve months she had been rated the world’s best mare and clearly Australia’s best horse by some significant margin.
In her shadow internationally, were females of the highest calibre like Found and Beholder. Generally, she was referred to as ‘probably’ Australia’s best and still had something to prove. At least that is sorted now.
Greg Carpenter, Australia’s member on the International Ranking Advisory Board, suggested that Winx’s 2016 Cox Plate win will take her to the top of the world ratings. That may not be sorted yet. Still some water to pass under the bridge but in two weeks, we should know for certain following the running of the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita.
Since the Irish Champion Stakes, I’ve felt Winx was in a precious triumvirate of world equine leaders. These three currently dominate racing and have dutifully partitioned the world.
Who will wear the world’s crown at the end of the year? There are three contenders.
Almanzor (King of Europe)
He is world’s best three-year-old. Emerging quietly out of France to tackle a star-studded Irish Champion Stakes, he came from the tail-end to overpower the quality Ballydoyle mare, Found, a next start Arc de Triomphe winner.
The re-match of the two stars was slated for October 15th in the Ascot Champion Stakes and once again they singled out for a duel only to see Almanzor switch into overdrive during the last 100m and power away. His engine has got some torque and he is going to be a scary competitor next year.
California Chrome (President of North America)
North America’s Champion. With the retirement of firstly, Shared Belief, followed last year, by triple-crown winner American Pharoah departure, California Chrome was gifted the North America’s top slot with several impressive Group One performances this year. In fact, he has hardly been tested in any 2016 contest. Few doubt the champ’s qualities.
He has gears too spare and his variable speed would break just about any horse. If he has a failing, to my eye, it maybe that his peak distance range about 1900m then he begins to taper slightly. This year it hasn’t been a problem, as usually, he has broken the contest at the turn, similar to Winx yesterday.
Winx (Queen of all she surveys)
She is the southern hemisphere’s undisputed champion. Her record is amazing. For nearly 18 months she has laid waste to every Group One horse that had dared to challenge her whether at weight-for-age or handicap. She is dominating beyond description.
Who will be the world’s top horse?
We will know on November fifth. Winx, may likely start in the Emirates MacKinnon and California Chrome is to take on Arrogate’s dazzling speed in the Breeder’s Cup later that night. What a fitting way to end the international racing calendar’s year.