This Wednesday, we head to Sandown Lakeside, where we near the end of the twilight and night racing season. It’ll be an eight-race card, with the feature coming in the last race, a Benchmark 70 handicap.
Regardless of whether her winning run comes to an end – and if that happens her conqueror will be remembered as the horse who killed Miss Santa Claus – Winx’s place in history is safe.
By any criterion, Winx is an out-and-out champion.
Trainer Chris Waller made the right choice in not sending her overseas. She’s not going to get any better and there’s always risks taking horses away, as you don’t know how they’re going to come up.
Black Caviar won at Royal Ascot but it felt like a loss because she was six lengths below her best.
A guide to how Winx might have performed in England was given when she beat Highland Reel by seven lengths in the Cox Plate. The stallion later retired as Britain’s greatest stakes winner and won just about everywhere, proved himself a seasoned traveller and performed to his best anywhere, but that’s only a guide.
The second and more disturbing reason why we mightn’t see Winx’s like again is that if you take her out of a weight-for-age race, has Australia another genuine Group 1 performer to repel the overseas hordes?
Look at old sales catalogues from the 1960s through to the ’80s and see yearlings by the dozen from staying sires like Better Boy, Summertime, Oncidium and Sir Tristam.
Where are the staying sires now?
Now trainers buy ready-made overseas middle-distance gallopers and stayers, and it’s a struggle to find local breds in Melbourne-Sydney Cups – a placing by an Australasian-bred feels like a win.
Even the Doncaster can be won by a moderately-performed British import such as It’s Somewhat, and a seven-year-old Japanese import like Token Stardom can win 1600m Group 1s.
Perhaps a new sire like Pierro might produce a Group 1 middle-distance performer. Perhaps there’ll be a breeding freak like Gunsynd, by a Star Kingdom sire in Sunset Hue, by a Newtown Wonder mare in Woodie Wonder.
Most likely not.
Easy to find the culprit: the Golden Slipper.
The time is long gone since early Golden Slipper winners like Skyline and Sky High would train on to win derbies, when starters were expected to train on.
When in comparatively recent times, 1995 placegetter Octagonal could train on to be a middle-distance champion, when he was part of a vintage race that could produce five later Group 1 winners.
Now it’s a struggle to remember last year’s winner and the two-year-old scamper is the starters’ grand final.
Recent names like Vancouver and Capitalist can have a winless early three-year-old start or two and be packed off to stud and repeat the cycle.
Future winners might stagger on to October now to the $13 million The Everest – the 1200m atrocity that is arguably the worst innovation in the history of Australian sport.
Well, a win for a colt or stallion will guarantee a lucrative stud career.
At least the United States innovation with equivalent prizemoney is run over a classic weight-for-age distance.
Combined, the Golden Slipper-Everest have defined Australian racing’s future. The danger is that it has no future beyond restricted two-and-three-year-old fields, except as a benefit scheme for overseas imports and visitors.
When she retires, Winx will pass into legend. The hope is that Australian racing can survive her passing.