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Winx must win on Saturday, being beaten is unthinkable

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Expert
9th April, 2019
7

Royal Randwick will be chockers and millions will be watching live on television, all set to farewell the mighty mare Winx.

But sport has a habit of throwing a curve ball at the most inopportune time. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Having drawn the outside Barrier 9 for the last hurrah, at least jockey Hugh Bowman will be able to keep Winx out of harm’s way for the 2000-metre journey.

Everything points to Winx ending her spectacular career on a record 33 successive wins, a world record 25 Group 1 victories, and an Australasian record $26 million and some change in prize money.

Her overall career stats are of Bradmanesque proportions.

Everything pointed to Don Bradman scoring at least four runs in 1948 at the Oval to end his stellar career with a Test batting average of 100-plus.

That managed cricket’s most famous duck is the point I’m making: nothing is out of the question.

So the Don finished with a Test batting average of 99.94, still more than 50 per cent higher than the next best, but 9994 became the post-office-box number of the ABC in each Australian state.

That destination hasn’t quite got the same ring about the Don averaging a 100.

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Australia's Don Bradman (r) batting

(Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

There are many other instances where legends in their sport have fallen just shy of the ultimate.

In golf, nobody has managed to win all four majors in the same calendar year.

And just five have won the Masters, US Open, The Open, and the PGA Championship across their careers: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

Eight more have won three, but couldn’t – or haven’t yet – grabbed the fourth.

The classic is Phil Mickelson, who can’t crack the US Open, where he’s finished second a record six times. Sam Snead is not far behind, with four seconds.

Arnold Palmer couldn’t win the PGA, where he finished second three times, while Tom Watson finished second once.

Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd and Rory McIlroy are the remaining four, just one major shy of the career ultimate.

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Nelson’s best at The Open is fifth, so too Floyd with a second, Trevino the Masters with tenth his best, and McIlroy fourth.

Tennis has Rod Laver as the only two-time Grand Slam winner, taking out the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Opens in the same calendar year – 1962 as an amateur, and 1969 as a pro – while Donald Budge’s Grand Slam was in 1938 as an amateur.

Career slams of the four tournaments are shared by Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.

Roger Federer

(AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

But there are many more hopefuls just one career Slam away from the ultimate.

Missing out on the French has claimed most of them: Frank Sedgman, Ashley Cooper, Arthur Ashe, John Newcombe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, and Pete Sampras.

Wimbledon has claimed five, with Ken Rosewall the hardest hit losing four finals, followed by Mats Wilander, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl and Stan Wawrinka.

Lew Hoad is the only casualty at the US.

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Having won the Australian, French, and Wimbedon in 1956, Hoad reached the US final to be on the brink of becoming the third grand slammer, only to be beaten by his close mate and tennis twin Rosewall.

Another example is sculler Stuart MacKenzie.

At 19, as a member of the NSW Kings Cup eights, MacKenzie decided to challenge former Olympian gold medalist Merv Woods as Australia’s sculling representative at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

MacKenzie reached the gold medal final against Russian Vyacheslav Ivanov.

During the lead-up races, buoys marked every 100 metres from the 500 to the finish, but were changed to every 50 metres for the final.

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MacKenzie wasn’t told, and by counting the buoys he stopped rowing believing he’d won the gold.

Having lost his momentum once he realised he wasn’t home, Ivanov swept past, leaving MacKenzie with silver.

MacKenzie won the coveted Diamond Challenge Sculls at the home of rowing, Henley-on-Thames, for a record six successive years, flogging Ivanov in the first two.

But MacKenzie had a perforated ulcer and couldn’t compete at the 1960 Rome Olympics, so his career as the world’s best sculler never ended in Olympic victory, when Ivanov won again.

Let’s have none of that come Saturday at Royal Randwick.

Winx is a freak of nature and thoroughly deserves to go out as a winner with her faithful crying tears of joy, not devastation.