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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?

 

 

 

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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

 

  • 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

Social Discourse, 25th March 2019

Another week, another SD to keep you in the loop on all things racing via the occasionally wonderful medium of tweetie, writes William Kedjanyi. We kick off with a familiar gripe related to race clashes...

  1. Do The Splits

Oh, what a glorious Sunday to be an Irish racing fan. The flat was back at Naas and there was also a decent jumping card at Down Royal featuring the Ulster National. It was enough to stay in on even the sunniest of days, sit back, and watch… half the race on whatever device you chose.

The last sentence is a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that there was a spit screen for the big betting race of the day, the Irish Lincolnshire. Thankfully it was won in convincing style by Karawaan, so as not to provide much confusion over the finish but, of basically any race on the card – and there were eight – there couldn’t have been a less suitable contest with which to share the screen than a 20 runner handicap in bright sunlight.

Eight weeks ago, in this newsletter, the potential for British and Irish fixtures to clash, especially on Sundays, was raised after Racing TV’s very promising launch, and over the past eight weeks, there has been one recurring theme – that of the coverage of Irish racing.

Many subscribers have been rather frustrated, and following the decision to split screen the Irish Lincolnshire, that debate roared into life yet again.

Double Trouble: The obvious solution is for a second channel for Racing TV. The issue, however, is running costs to do so that couldn’t be recouped, which is likely to win out.

Tune Off? It’s clear that Racing TV is going to have this issue for the rest of the season, and it will be a challenge for them during the spring and the autumn; One can coordinate the starts between courses, but when both codes are in play, it is a very common occurrence given the sheer amount of racing in the UK. As mentioned below, Racing TV’s unique selling point is the depth of analysis and quality of coverage it can bring for racing; and should that be compromised subscribers could find it hard to justify on top of other options.

Steady on: I am not suggesting that Racing TV has lost its edge – the team there is exceptional – but bar online platforms, clashes like this are an inevitability and the loser might well be Irish racing and it’s fans.

Update: Apparently the replays are still split screened, and with dead space:

 

 

  1. Who Da Man-ning ?!

One thing viewers couldn’t miss was a sensational start to the season for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning, who combined for a 5,354-1 treble with 14/1, 16/1 and 20/1 winners.

Following wins for Western Dawn in the maiden and Solar Wave in a competitive handicap, Normandel clung on grimly to win a thrilling renewal of the Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes when getting the better of a three-way battle on what was a thrilling day’s racing.

 

It’s not the first time that the pair have started the season in fine form – they’ve got a strong record in the opening juvenile contest for example – and many punters will be sure to catch on rather sharpish.

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The most eye-catching effort of the day might have come from a Bolger runner that didn’t win; Feminista, who ran in the second colours of Jackie Bolger behind Value Chain (her first string, trained by Brendan Duke) made some decent late progress into third.

Looking ahead: Normandel was having just her second run for Jim Bolger, and this coming after failing to stay when tried over 1m4f, clearly a trip too far based on the previous form. She may be able to improve yet and we probably haven’t seen the best of her.

 

  1. Winx and you’ll miss her

Death, taxes, and Winx: Australia’s Equine phenomenon Winx has already put her name in history with her 32 wins, but like all good things, her career must come to an end.

Her farewell tour has taken in the Spring Carnival, and she gave a consummate performance in the George Ryder Stakes, always in control even when the three-year-old Brute kicked around the turn, and with her customary turn of foot, she managed to basically inhale that rival in one fell swoop before strolling to another win with cheers of "Winxy, Winxy, Winxy" accompanying her post-race parade.

https://twitter.com/7horseracing/status/1109306091530117120

Only accidents have been able to stop her for a while, and the heavy ground couldn’t get in the way of her latest success which came by an easy three and a quarter-lengths.

 

With only one race to go, it was a surprise to see the debate raging still over what she’s beaten.

 

By now, one of the great racehorses of recent history seems to scare off all opposition and whilst yours truly has always been a fan of debating the merits of the great horses of history, it feels like the time and the place to do that constructively with Winx has been and gone, and that perhaps we should enjoy the ride. Particularly with moments like this:

 

Don’t Worry: When she has her last race (April the 13th, in case you didn’t know), she’ll get top billing.

Food for Thought: “I said to someone [on Saturday] I would love to see her race a horse like Frankel, or whatever the greatest horse has been... I think she could beat whatever that horse may be. And I guess on their terms maybe they could beat her. But they wouldn’t be able to do it for as long as she has done. Had she taken on a Frankel or something early in her career, who knows. She might have beaten him but she wouldn’t be racing [now].” – Chris Waller speaking to Sydney Radio about the longevity of Winx’s career, and the route she's taken

 

  1. Elsewhere….

Godolphin took a remarkable 1-2-3 in the Golden Slipper, the most prestigious juvenile contest on the planet, as Kiamichi earned a first Slipper for trainer James Cummings (son of the legendary Bart), beating stablemate Microphone with the Blue Diamond Stakes winner, Lyre, in third.

 

Meanwhile, back in Ireland... Still Standing claimed his fifth victory from just eight career starts with a comprehensive success in the Devoy Stakes at Naas, giving Shane Foley a great start to life as Number 1 for Jessica Harrington. He beat Hazel Bay to second whilst Aidan O’Brien’s one-time Classic contender Amedeo Modigliani – who had been sidelined by injury since winning at the 2017 Galway Festival – needed the run and was a creditable third.

 

And on Saturday, Jonjo O’Neill Junior, fresh from success at the Cheltenham Festival, was in the headlines once again as he doubled up at Newbury on a valuable card courtesy of Annie Mc and Chic Name. Annie Mc was another notable success for him, taking the Grade 2 EBF & EBA Mares’ National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Series Final in great style, bouncing back from a below-par run last time at Exeter to beat Sixty's Belle by eight lengths.

 

Further north, Sean Bowen took his strike rate at Kelso to nearly 50% with two fine and differing rides, the first a front-running success on Kupatana in the EBF/TBA Mares’ Novices’ Chase, before later bringing Winston C from the back of the field, having looked beaten, to gain a fighting success in the Bernhard Lighting Rig Handicap Hurdle.

 

  1. Noel One Better

The last word in this week’s column was always going to be reserved for a big mention for Noel Fehily, who ended his riding career in the best possible fashion on Saturday as Get In The Queue ran out a ready winner of the Goffs UK Spring Sale Bumper at Newbury.

That was the perfect end to a brilliant career notable for not only a sensitive and calculated style but also one laden with success at the highest level.

Arguably nowhere was Noel better than at the Cheltenham Festival, where he won the Champion Hurdle twice, firstly aboard Rock On Ruby in 2012, and then again with Buveur d'Air in 2017, although his best ride at the Festival was may have been on Special Tiara in the 2017 Champion Chase, when leading from pillar to post but with such measured efficiency that the charging Fox Norton could be held off in the dying strides.

 

Those were not his only winners at the Festival, however; a quick tactical brain and a deceptively strong finish saw him take wins on Silver Jaro (2008 County Hurdle), Unowhatimeanharry (2016 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle), and Summerville Boy (2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle), before his shock victory on Eglantine Du Seuil in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle earlier this month.

Fehily had always been known as one of the most talented riders in the weighing room, but being the main beneficiary of a long term Ruby Walsh injury as the jump season was kicking into gear in 2010 really saw his career take off.

Successes on Master Minded in the Amlin 1965 Chase and Silviniaco Conti in the Coral Hurdle began what would be a string of notable big race successes, with Fehily’s excellent sense of timing and deft handling proving a beautiful like for like match for Ruby Walsh, and a new star was born – one that the whole racing community has enjoyed and appreciated.

From all of us at geegeez.co.uk, wishing you a happy retirement, Noel, and best of luck in whatever comes next for you.