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

Tristan Rayner Editor

By Tristan Rayner, Tristan Rayner is a Roar Editor


15 Have your say

    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.”

    Tristan Rayner
    Tristan Rayner

    Tristan is a writer, consultant, racing enthusiast and former Editor of The Roar who has turned the Melbourne Cup into a year-round study via

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • April 9th 2017 @ 11:45am
      Scuba said | April 9th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

      Not sure you can say Winx is beyond anything we have at 1200. She was unplaced at her most recent run at that trip and her recent 1400 runs have generally been first up against horses looking for further. Waller is hardly going to set her for a Newmarket or a TJ when she can win a lot more money over 2000 in the Autumn, and the lure of three Cox Plates will mean that the Everest won’t get a look in.

      The other horse who should get a mention out of the QE is Sense of Occasion – if you’d predicted he would be placed in a Doncaster and a QE this prep you’d have been laughed out of town.

      No good news out of the Sydney Cup – terrible loss of Almoonqith, and what could have been a redemption of sorts for Charlie Appleby after the loss of The Gold Trail taken away. Oliver did himself no credit with those comments either.

      Sydney Cup

      • April 9th 2017 @ 11:59pm
        jeff dustby said | April 9th 2017 @ 11:59pm | ! Report

        how about the everest? how long ago was that 1200m start? 3 years ago?

      • Editor

        April 10th 2017 @ 1:30am
        Tristan Rayner said | April 10th 2017 @ 1:30am | ! Report

        Thanks for the thoughts. I actually did strongly consider the range over her dominance. The safe range was 1400m-2000m – or 2040m if you like!

        But I firmly believe if she was set for 1200m in this incredible vein of form, she’d win. And as I said, probably a lot further too, if set that way.

      • April 10th 2017 @ 8:01am
        Razzar said | April 10th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        It’s a little disappointing D Oliver does not show a little more maturity in these tragic circumstances. The Stewards decision was the Right decision to make. Safety is paramount.

        • April 10th 2017 @ 11:41am
          michael steel said | April 10th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          Poor D OIiver, maybe he ought to watch that film about his life.

    • April 9th 2017 @ 12:26pm
      Cleveland said | April 9th 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

      I was in the Queen Elizabeth stand watching yesterday Sydney Cup. The stewards made the only decision possible in calling off the race after Almoonqith’s breaking down and Whoshotthebarman losing his rider. Almoonqith was unable to stand and was on its haunches near the fence and track staff were running to its aid.
      The riderless Whoshotthebarman almost ran into the prone Algoonqith and the emergency staff treating him when it came around the track. If a full field was let complete the race who knows what would have happened…

      The chaos around notification to the jockeys that the race being called off was extraordinary for a leading race club but it is a lesser point. Credit must go to the steward of the course who caught the riderless horse and to the course staff who stood their ground when the riderless horse came towards them.

      My wife and I and many others left the racetrack after that race. We didn’t have any heart left to watching any more racing.

      • Editor

        April 10th 2017 @ 1:34am
        Tristan Rayner said | April 10th 2017 @ 1:34am | ! Report

        Thanks for the view from the stands – dreadful for poor Almoonqith.

    • April 9th 2017 @ 4:53pm
      Farqueue said | April 9th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

      Live baiting….. People furious…Ban greyhound racing…It’s barbaric.
      Horse racing….Many deaths every year.
      Oh that’s just unfortunate.
      You know it’s going to keep happening just for gambling.
      Plenty of other things to gamble on.

      • April 9th 2017 @ 6:03pm
        Scuba said | April 9th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

        How many is many? Please provide a legitimate source, not the debunked figures from the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses.

      • April 9th 2017 @ 11:59pm
        jeff dustby said | April 9th 2017 @ 11:59pm | ! Report

        not even close

      • Editor

        April 10th 2017 @ 1:33am
        Tristan Rayner said | April 10th 2017 @ 1:33am | ! Report

        Thanks for the opinion. I hope you understand how wrenching this kind of thing for anyone from connections to those watching at home.

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2017 @ 2:15am
      hairy fat man said | April 10th 2017 @ 2:15am | ! Report

      Oh well, as long as the socialites had a good time.

    • April 10th 2017 @ 7:41am
      michael steel said | April 10th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      You don’t see too many stories about the horses Carbine, Phar Lap, Bernborough, Tulloch and Kingston Town beat.

    • Roar Rookie

      April 12th 2017 @ 8:06pm
      Nathan Blaylock said | April 12th 2017 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

      If you take out Hartnell’s heavy 10 runs from this prep, the only time any horse other than Winx has beaten him in his last 2 preparations is his 3rd in the Melbourne Cup.

      Had Winx not been here he would have won 4 Group 2s and 3 Group 1s in last two preparations. He would be considered the champion of his era, but for Winx who makes a mockery of him. Don’t forget Hartnell beat Jameka fair and square by 3.5 lengths in the Turnbull last Spring. He is a very bloody good horse. Winx is a freak of nature.

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