Reflections on Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day

The world’s best turf runner Winx was magnificent at Randwick on Saturday with her numbers in the stratosphere. 18 Group 1 wins, 25 straight wins, 29 overall wins, 15 of those at Randwick from 19 starts, three seconds and who can remember straight off the last of those, $18,998,424 in stakes or to put it another way, ‘just’ $1,001,576 off winning $20,000,000. Astonishing.

Winx and Hugh Bowman in full flight, picture

For the record the last time Winx came anywhere apart from winning was her second, to Gust Of Wind (NZ), in the 2015 Group 1 ATC Australian Oaks on the same programme that Criterion (NZ) won the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Randwick shone in the warmth of the ongoing late summer into autumn heat of 30c with 25,822 packing the course, less than the 26,801 of last year, but it was a fair enough crowd. Their participation in the day was immense and more on that shortly.

This columnist has missed just three of Winx’s 25 straight and not once has there been a sense of disappointment at the end of her races, last spring the mare played thrill seeker with missed starts, but the end result was always the same. For this campaign right from the start the six-year-old has been at the very peak of her ability. Even with Saturday’s dominant, exquisite demonstration of athleticism, there is the feeling there was more for Hugh Bowman should he had ridden her right out.

Bowman commented after the Queen Elizabeth Stakes that Winx was 10 to 12 lengths better than her rivals and of that there is no doubt. She was 10L last at the 1400m and eight lengths at the 800m to the leader Gailo Chop (FR) who she then defeated by 3 1/4L.

Gailo Chop had just been elevated to a ranking of 119 on the LONGINES World's Best Racehorse Rankings last week, equal sixth in the world behind Winx and the now retired Gun Runner (USA). He had impressively won the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes over 2000m at Rosehill and all summer and into autumn he has been winning and running well. Then whoosh Winx goes past.

Full house for Winx and Hugh Bowman, picture

When Bowman gives Winx the message to engage out of idle at the back of the field, the crowd roar is a crescendo of noise and emotion as they then know what is coming. There is relief to know she is on her way and the calculations are swiftly made as to her progress against the others.

On Saturday the crowd lifted that to a solid, deafening wall of sound as she went past the Queen Elizabeth Stand. They knew this was a sublime performance and they were part of it, the day Winx beat Black Caviar’s record of 24 straight wins. The blue and white flag with Winx XXV emblazoned on it was immediately hosted to one of the stand flag poles.

There is a feeling of expectation in the crowd with Winx. The use of mobile phone cameras is more prevalent than when Black Caviar retired after her Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes win at Randwick on April 13th, 2013. When this mare enters the Theatre of the Horse for the pre-parade the phones both inside and outside the walking ring are aloft with everyone, literally everyone, taking photos, video, organising selfies with the mare walking in the background.

This is rock star treatment. Last spring Usain Bolt attended Flemington during Cup Week as a guest and when he entered the mounting yard the normal sensibilities of, let’s just say grown individuals of the female gender, changed their personalities to get near Bolt and be in one of the many, many selfies he patiently participated in. Winx has a similar reaction.

It is the same when she is through the tunnel to the track. She cocks her ears to the crowd whistling and cheering as she and Bowman saunter off to the line. The flags, the blue everywhere no matter the age, it was the day Winx made it 25 straight. Returning to scale is worth every memory and emotion as the crowd lines every vantage point to show their appreciation. Quite something.

This was a day of racing that left everyone knowing they had witnessed an excellent day with the support card supplying plenty as well. The best of which was the nine-year-old Who Shot Thebarman (NZ) winning the Group 1 Schweppes Sydney Cup (3200m). It was such a deserved result for the veteran.

Who would have liked to have listened to the chat as he and Winx rode the float back to their Rosehill stalls….’win anything today…yep, you?.....oh another’.

Winx after her win in the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) on March 3rd, picture