Wondermare Winx Wins a Fourth Cox Plate

Hugh Bowman at Newmarket

Winx the wondermare has completed a four-timer in the Cox Plate and won her twenty-ninth successive race, beating Benbatl a couple of lengths with plenty in hand. Owned by Magic Bloodstock Racing, R G Treweeke & D N Kepitis, who purchased her at the 2013 Magic Million Gold Coast Sales for $230,000, she has now won her initial fee seventy times over. We change gears this afternoon with Cheltenham the focus of attention for most viewers with our ITV Racing Tips which are live on site.

A Superstar starts

It was in the 2015 Cox Plate where the Chris Waller-trained mare first fully advertised her brilliance, comfortably beating the four-time Group One winner Criterion by nearly five lengths, overcoming the globetrotting Highland Reel who well and truly franked that form by succeeding it with six Group One victories. Since then, in twenty-three races, she has gone off odds-on every time and she has not disappointed. A winner as a two-year-old over five-and-a-half furlongs, she has won over every distance up to one-mile-and-three furlongs, on every type of going, against over seventy Group One winners. For the Australian public, Winx is not just a racehorse but a phenomena, a cultural and sporting icon who deserves better than to be subject to such scientific denigration of her form.

Silencing her critics

Matt Chapman, a man who in Chris Waller’s opinion is a “bit of a d***head”, said she only beats “fairly moderate horses” telling a room full of Australians before the race that jockey Hugh Bowman did not want to give Benbatl and Oisin Murphy too much room on the front end. It ultimately did not matter how many lengths she gave him from the start.

And yet, the horse whom Chapman said should be the best-rated this year, Cracksman, cannot run to his best at Epsom and hates good-to-firm ground according to connections, a combination of factors that meant he was only able to beat an unimpressive horse in Salouen by a head in the Coronation Cup. His margins for victory, where posting his RPRs of 131 have been greatly exaggerated by the fact that other horses struggle in the mud whereas he thrives, and the second and third when he won his second Champion Stakes were two horses who have never won any Group Ones, the latter a Czech-raider to whom Winx wouldn’t even stop to say hello. Winx’s connections do not issue these disclaimers about the nature of her victories, because she is never troubled.

If Cracksman ran on good-to-firm ground against Winx, he would be beaten fair and square. On softer ground, the race would perhaps be less of a formality for the wonder mare, however she is three-from-three on heavy going, including posting her joint-best RPR of 130 back in March 2017, an achievement matched on good-to-soft going when winning her second Cox Plate by eight lengths. That is provided Cracksman does not get distracted by the mare’s presence in this hypothetical race, another excuse propagated by Gosden after his Royal Ascot flop

The vanquished foes

Of course, Benbatl is not the best-trained British horse by any stretch of the imagination. He was beaten five-and-three-quarter lengths by Roaring Lion in the Juddmonte International and his prep run saw him narrowly beat Blair House who was a glorified handicapper until running abroad. 

Of the Australian challengers who were all well-beaten, Humidor has now been overcome by Winx four times and has won just twice this season from ten runs, and Avilius was beaten three and a half lengths by Cracksman in the Prix Niel,when trained in France. D’Argento was beaten only a shoulder by Hartnell in the Randwick Epsom Handicap last month, who Winx whipped by eight lengths in her second Cox Plate victory, a Group Three winner when trained in the UK. A similarly unimpressive story is told by Savvy Coup who, despite being a dual-Group One winner has posted a career-best RPR of just 103 over in New Zealand.

It is in spite of this, Winx must be applauded and recognised as the greatest horse we have seen in recent years. Just as when Arrogate was awarded Best Racehorse of the Year in 2017, having lost three races that year out of five, ratings often do not accurately represent what we see on the racetrack. She may well only do it by small margins, beat fields made up of rather weak opponents, both British and Australian, but to do anything twenty-nine times in a row is an achievement. To win twenty-nine horse races in a row is nothing short of phenomenal, including a world-record twenty-two Group Ones and questioning this, laying all the form out on a table and picking holes in it is something that Winx deserves better than. To expose Winx to this scientific minutiae is to miss the point. Horse racing is not an exact science. 

All of these queries about winning distances, do not accurately represent Winx’s running style. In the Turnbull Stakes in 2018, she was eight lengths behind the leader coming round the bend and at the 200m mark she had six horses ahead of her, a race which she won without Bowman even looking troubled.

She was a little closer to the pace than has sometimes been the case this morning, never far off the pace. Ryan Moore tried to inject some pace down the back but Winx cruised into contention, coming right round the outside, four wide, as is her wont. She only needed the briefest shaking up to despatch of Benbatl by a couple of lengths with ease, back on the bridle as they passed the line. It was a margin that could so easily have been more if Bowman had wanted to embarrass the field. 

The future

To press for the hypothetical match-up between Cracksman or our own star filly Enable is not just fantasy, it is sheer lunacy. There is no reason for connections to send Winx over to Royal Ascot for far smaller prize money than she continuously wins in Australia. A museum wouldn’t send its prized piece to the other side of the world to charge half the admission fee. Considering this, and the obvious practical reasons that these match-ups will never take place – Cracksman has retired, Enable and Winx do not run over the same trip – it is about time that the British horse racing spectator prays that we get to see Winx carry on racing and attempt to win a fifth Cox Plate, instead of complaining about the quality of the horses she beats and her failure to travel.

There is surely no better sight in sport than to see Winx cruise up on the outside, Bowman motionless, your heart in your throat, thoughts flashing through your head that surely this is the time she gets beat, she’s left far too much to do, only for her to make you feel like a fool for ever doubting her ability. That raw excitement that she generates is surely a far more important thing than anything else.

If the victory of Winx has whetted your appetite for Antipodean racing, we have Australian horse racing tips on the site every night. 

by Charlie Scutts

Please Gamble Responsibly