SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — APRIL 14: Hugh Bowman on Winx returns to scale after winning race 7 the Queen Elizabeth Stakes during day two of The Championships as part of Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse on April 14, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — APRIL 14: Hugh Bowman on Winx returns to scale after winning race 7 the Queen Elizabeth Stakes during day two of The Championships as part of Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse on April 14, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Two legends in one generation a rare treat

WHEN Black Caviar won her final race at Royal Randwick in April 2013, ambling into the sunset a picture of permanent perfection, it was reasonable to assume we might never see the likes of her again.

Horse racing in Australia predated Federation. Australia's tracks had played host to a lineage of champions from Carbine to Phar Lap and Tulloch and on to Kingston Town and Makybe Diva.

They won the crowds of their era and were glorified heroes. Each a lasting household name.

Black Caviar, though, was something else. The embodiment of invincibility, a notion so fraught in the theatre of sport.

She proved herself the fastest of them all across four storied years, 25 consecutive races and departed like a museum piece in the national imagination.

Surely a lifetime would pass, several even, before such events would be repeated.

Instead we waited only five years to breathe in the rarefied air of sepia-toned history once more.

Hugh Bowman and Winx cruise to victory in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty Images
Hugh Bowman and Winx cruise to victory in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Picture: Getty Images

The Winx odyssey culminated yesterday with that record-equalling 25th consecutive win. A roaring success, a glorious sight.

The Queen Elizabeth presented a suitably challenging task with no favours in terms of draw or tactic.

Gailo Chop got the cushy lead to order. Winx sat last from the outside gate. Jockey Hugh Bowman let the premature moves unfold without being drawn in.

And when he did give Winx the nod, she looped the field. So smooth was the move it belied the fretful edge that should be associated with such supernatural feats.

So imperious was her sweeping run it allowed no counter from Gailo Chop or Happy Clapper's late dash.

So commanding was the final deed it allowed time for all to savour and commit it to memory.

When it was done Chris Waller stood with the only man who really knows. Peter Moody held the microphone and did most of the talking. The lump in Waller's throat the only thing that proved insurmountable in the camp all afternoon.

Hugh Bowman raises his fist in triumph as the great mare thrills the Randwick crowd with another breathtaking performance. Picture: Getty Images
Hugh Bowman raises his fist in triumph as the great mare thrills the Randwick crowd with another breathtaking performance. Picture: Getty Images

It proved the culmination of an annihilating run through three years that rewrote records both etched in time and recently cast.

The risk of having lightning strike twice in such quick succession was that it might have been taken for granted. Cheapened a touch by the sense we'd seen it before.

It's been nothing of the sort. The sea of blue flags and caps evidence enough. The appreciation wholehearted and full-throated.

The destructive powers of Winx have been reminiscent of Frankel, arguably the greatest racehorse to run on a British racetrack.

His trademark manner and margins of victory were positively frightening. The building hype reaching its climax at that most famous of Royal Ascot meetings in 2011 when he won the Queen Anne Stakes by 11 lengths.

To witness it first hand was to think such a race could never before have been won in such a romp.

The full house roars in approval as the champion mare wins again. Picture: Getty Images
The full house roars in approval as the champion mare wins again. Picture: Getty Images

Winx had those days. Streaking victories that would have stacked up in any era and on any racecourse in any part of the civilised world.

While this was never tested, it does nothing to dull the sensation.

In the gloom at Rosehill as she strode around the field in last year's George Main skipping through the slops, putting more than seven lengths on her rivals, leaving even Chautauqua nonplussed.

Or basking in the sunshine of her Flemington debut making a mockery of the creeping sense of unease that followed her to Melbourne. That beautiful and brutal display measured at 6½ lengths and only because Bowman chose to be polite at the close.

She was at it again last month, handing down a trouncing in the Chipping Norton, a reassuring seven lengths in a cosmic sign that all was still good in the record chase.

There have been differing genres in this sequence of triumphs.

She won a three-horse Caulfield Stakes in a hack gallop.

A set of those bloodless Sydney weight-for-age races known to draw a sceptical eye.

And the "win" that doesn't count - the faux race against a bunch of high-profile stablemates that stretched the definition of a permissible track gallop.

The box set of Cox Plates will stand eternal.

Hugh Bowman acknowledges the applause for the great mare. Picture: Getty Images
Hugh Bowman acknowledges the applause for the great mare. Picture: Getty Images

The first she won like Sunline, railing like a greyhound and giving future global conqueror Highland Reel a decent beating.

The second was better than Dulcify, humiliating the mighty Hartnell at the peak of his powers.

To match the deeds of Kingston Town she fittingly won when all the chips were down, Bowman alerted to the lurking danger of Humidor by the gasp of the Moonee Valley crowd.

For the coronations and processions, there were days when she was duelling with defeat.

Strung up in the Doncaster of 2016 with gaps closing like lift doors, veering right before bursting into the clear seeming to scatter those around her with a superhero quality.

Theatrically blundering the start in the Warwick Stakes and needing every last stride to overhaul Foxplay.

Standing tearaway leader Red Excitement any number of lengths up the rise at Randwick leaving all to desperately calculate whether it was still physically possible to arrive in time at the post. It was.

Through it all there's been a majesty about Winx. Every inch the equine queen she has been billed.

Her speed of stride the freakish physical attribute to set her apart, offering the capacity to raise her rating when the race was afoot.

 

 

But there has also appeared an intelligence to her. What you might, with a human overlay, call racecraft. The innate capacity to know when to conserve and when to launch.

Not the superior sprinter who would steadily increase the speed to breaking point, but a canny middle distance animal that could vary tactics to match scenario.

When paired with the renowned skill of her faithful jockey there was no situation that couldn't be assessed and conquered.

The legend of Winx doesn't live alone in the streak as it did with Black Caviar.

But, as if to emphasise perhaps the most complete horse we've ever seen, even by that measure there is now none better.

Gerard Whateley is a sports commentator, co-host of AFL 360 and author of Black caviar: The horse of a lifetime



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