WINX (Street Cry - Vegas Showgirl) ridden by Hugh Bowman wins the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes, Randwick, Australia. Photo - Bronwen Healy / Racingfotos.com

Social Discourse – Winx Farewell Edition (Monday 15th April)

There were tons of good races over the weekend, but only one horse will be talked about for decades afterwards, so this is the Winx Farewell Edition of Social Discourse.

  1. Winx and you’ll miss her

Here are the numbers. 43 starts. 37 wins. 33 successive wins. Four years unbeaten. 25 group 1 wins, and £14,564,743 in earnings.

Even those astonishing numbers don’t quite do justice to the remarkable story of Winx’s career, which at one point seemed like it would never actually end – but all good things have to come to a close (to steal and paraphrase some words) and her amazing career finally concluded when – for the 33rd time in a row – she rolled through the straight with a customary late turn of foot to take the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

 

48,333 racegoers packed into Randwick, but this mare has captured so many more hearts and minds than that, and for the last time a small army of people woke up in the dead of night or at the crack of dawn to see one of the outstanding horses of the 21st Century.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Legacy

There are many things that make the Winx story special, but after the Lord Mayor’s Show the online debate turned to the great mare’s legacy. There were many strong views on show.

 

 

It’s clear that she has left a deep mark in history – indeed in a modern era where Black Caviar raced less than a decade ago, that Australia has another supermare is absolutely remarkable – and that she’ll be remembered for decades to come, but where does she stand with the on-track ranking?

 

 

 

One of the features of Winx’s career has been a fierce debate about the value and quality of her opposition and, by extension, middle distance Australian racing. This was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike Black Caviar, she never came to the Northern Hemisphere.

 

Winx does have much less to answer on that score than most Australian horses. Her last Cox Plate win involved a brilliant and easy defeat of Benbatl, a previous Epsom Derby fifth who had a rating of 124 thanks to an impressive win in the Dubai Turf in March 2018, and in one of her Cox Plate victories she also had a certain Highland Reel well beaten in third.

When assessing her on track ability, it should be remembered that there was ample opportunity (and also financial incentive) for top-class European horses to go over to take her on, and only a couple did; but also that she is a fundamentally different horse to the middle distance champions we have been so blessed to enjoy recently, as a versatile horse who possessed a sprinter’s speed in a country where the majority of races are won with a late burst, a completely different style of racing to European racing, where races are hotly run across a number of undulating courses.

Many critique the class of horse that she faced, but being so dominant – and also racing in a country with plenty of Group 1 races – was understandably going to scare off plenty of her opposition, and perhaps her greatest asset is one of her most underrated, her longevity.

 

 

 

Racing until the age of seven – even more a mare – and doing so 43 times is a remarkable achievement and privilege for a horse that was so good and Chris Waller’s choice to extend her career by avoiding some of the other challenges is likely to have benefited Australian racing in the long term too.

 

Whatever one thinks of her form on the track, we know that she has left a huge impression on the history books.

 

  1. Newbury

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that there was a lot of other racing on this weekend from my opening two missives, but we had a packed weekend of racing both on the level and over the jumps. At Newbury, Classic Trials day saw a number of fine performances for the season ahead:

  • Mohaather emerged as a genuine 2000 Guineas contender with a clear-cut success in the Greenham Stakes, showing an impressive turn of foot to get the better of Great Scot, also giving Marcus Tregoning perhaps his best shot at a Classic since Sir Percy.

 

  • Rockfel second Dandhu prevailed in a blanket finish for the Dubai Duty Free Stakes, getting the better of Tom Dascombe’s Iconic Choice, Aidan O’Brien’s So Perfect and Richard Hannon’s Star Terms, having previously looked set to win with something in hand

 

  • Melbourne Cup runner-up Marmelo came home much the best to make a winning return to action in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Stakes, passing Aspetar, Laraaib and Defoe in the last furlong.

 

  • Chatez was rejuvenated for coming back to the flat with a 16/1 success in the Spring Mile, denying The Dominic Ffrench Davis import, Indeed, by a neck and giving jumps trainer Alan King a big flat winner.

 

  1. Scotland

Jumps fans, fear not – the Scottish National is clearly not forgotten in these virtual notes and this year’s renewal saw an upset at Takingrisks won at 25/1 for Nicky Richards, with jockey Sean Quinlan producing a fine sit over the very first fence to keep the partnership intact.

 

This was another recent big win for Richards, the son of two-time Scottish National winner Gordon Richards, who trained the legend Monet’s Garden and went through a rough patch before coaxing plenty of fine performances out of the likes of Simply Ned, Guitar Pete and Baywing.

Travelling well in behind a very strong gallop set by Cogry and Vintage Clouds, he was always moving like a contender and, in the end, stayed on powerfully for a comprehensive win over Eider Chase winner Crosspark with the Trevor Hemmings-owned Cloth Cap in third whilst Big Big River ran a fine race in fifth after losing a lot of ground mid race.

Vintage Clouds was a creditable sixth, having forced the pace very hard from early on.

 

Looking Ahead: It’s only been a week since Tiger Roll won the Grand National but could both these two be headed to Aintree next April? Nicky Richards has already mentioned it for Takingrisks and Crosspark, who is a year younger and would look a natural for the Aintree.

Nicky Richards, trainer of Takingrisks: "I considered running Takingrisks in the race after he won at Carlisle last month as the cheek pieces seemed to improve him a bit. I don't see why he couldn't be an Aintree horse, he jumps and stays, and although he went on this quick ground it was heavy when he won at Carlisle."

 

Also at Ayr….

  • Verdana Blue took advantage of fast ground to rout her Scottish Champion Hurdle rivals, with 7lb claimer Connor Brace taking the biggest victory in his fledgling career

 

  • Secret Investor looked a very smart horse when he provided Paul Nicholls with his seventh win in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase despite bulldozing a number of fences on the way round

  • Azzurri landed a massive week-long gamble to win the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase by nine lengths, going off 5/2 favourite after starting 8/1

 

  1. Meanwhile, around the globe...

Persian King laid a big marker as he outclassed his rivals in the Prix de Fontainebleau at Paris Longchamp, giving Godolphin yet another classic contender

 

  • Magical, last seen pushing Enable to the limit at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup, was an impressive winner of the Alleged Stakes (once sponsored by geegeez.co.uk - Ed.), beating classic winners Flag Of Honour and Latrobe

 

  • Monarch Of Egypt became a first winner for his sire, American Pharoah, the former US Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner, from his first start, for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore, with Royal Ascot now on the cards

 

  • Saturnalia maintained his unbeaten record in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas), winning a thriller from Velox, who got first run in the straight

https://twitter.com/WHR/status/1117352637433810944

 

  • Omaha Beach fended off the late charge of Improbable to take the Arkansas Derby, in a result that sealed Kentucky Derby spots for the 1-2-3 (Country House was third)

  • Rushing Fall made a winning debut against older horses when grinding out a very creditable success in the Jenny Wiley Stakes, her fourth success from four starts at Keeneland

  • Delta Prince took his first Grade 1 with a deep rally from last place to win the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile Stakes, also at Keeneland

 

Racing is a truly global sport, and I hope this wrap of the week's action sets the tone for various national and international narratives in the weeks and months to come. You'll be able to track the stories right here in your weekly dose of Social Discourse...

- William Kedjanyi

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