Winx set to eclipse incredible Black Caviar
IF trainer Chris Waller has trouble keeping up with Winx, what chance do her racetrack rivals have?
At Rosehill trackwork on Thursday morning, Waller was holding a press conference to provide an update on Winx's progress ahead of her return to racing in the Group 1 $600,000 TAB Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday when he was informed his champion mare is about to equal a world record.
Winx breaks records almost every time she races these days so it is understandable Waller wasn't aware his great mare is not only poised to break Black Caviar's record for most Group 1 wins but equal the world standard of 16 majors set by American champion John Henry.
The Pattern system of race classifications was introduced in the northern hemisphere in 1971 and John Henry, a two-time US Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1984, set the world record of 16 Group (Grade) 1 wins that has remained unchallenged for more than 30 years.
The only horse to win more majors was the Irish jumper Hurricane Sky with 22 Group 1 wins over hurdles.
"I didn't know there was a Group 1 record,'' Waller said. "That is quite unbelievable.
"You have got to respect Black Caviar, she was never beaten and will never lose that title.
"To win one Group 1 race in Australia is very tough so it is quite special so be talking about Winx having 15 Group 1 wins to her name with possibly more to come.
"She is certainly part of history and that is something we are all very proud of.''
Black Caviar, unbeaten in 25 races, was retired after claiming her 15th major with a runaway win in the 2013 T.J. Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick.
It was thought Black Caviar's big-race record would stand the test of time in Australian racing but less than five years later, Winx is poised to set a new standard on Saturday.
There is no such thing as a certainty in racing but Winx comes very close. She is rated at prohibitive odds of $1.06 with TAB Fixed Odds to win her 23rd race in succession and the 16th Group 1 of her career.
Peter Moody, trainer of the legendary Black Caviar, has a philosophical take on his great mare losing her Group 1 record for most wins to Winx.
"Any horse that breaks a record like that of Black Caviar's is good for racing,'' Moody said.
"All records are made to be broken and I think it is fantastic that Winx is going to take the Group 1 record to a new level.''
Neil Werrett, a part-owner of Black Caviar, is also surprisingly upbeat even though Winx is about to go past his mare's Group 1 achievement.
"Records don't last forever, you see that in all sports,'' Werrett said.
"But I think it is such a positive for racing to have a champion like Winx. She just seems to be getting better.''
Winx is the latest of a series of champion mares to race this century, starting with Sunline, Makybe Diva, More Joyous, Atlantic Jewel and Black Caviar.
"It is amazing to think we have had Black Caviar and Winx almost back-to-back,'' Moody said.
"They have come only a few years after Makybe Diva won three Melbourne Cups (2003-04-05). Australian racing has been lucky to have three of the all-time greats race virtually in the same era.''
Black Caviar's swan song in the T.J. Smith Stakes five years ago capped her unbeaten career with a 15th Group 1 win, breaking the legendary Kingston Town's longstanding record of big-race wins.
The Group and Listed race classifications system wasn't introduced to Australian racing until 1978 and Kingston Town's 14 majors had stood as a record since 1982.
But if Kingston Town's record is updated to include those races that have subsequently been elevated to Group 1 status, his number of major race wins is increased by three to include his hat-trick of Warwick Stakes wins in 1980-81-82.
Similarly, Winx's tally of majors would already be at 17 if her 2016-17 Warwick Stakes wins were included as Group 1 races.
This got me thinking about the records of some of the great champions of yesteryear and how their Group 1 performances would rank in the modern era.
Sunline won 13 Group 1 races during her career including two Cox Plates in 1999-2000 but if her record is updated, she would have 18 majors to her credit.
Manikato, the mighty sprinter, officially won 11 Group 1 races during his spectacular sprinting career.
But after updating Manikato's race record, his tally of Group 1 wins soars to 24. He won five Williams Reid Stakes, three C.F. Orr Stakes, two Freeway (now Manikato) Stakes, Memsie Stakes, Moir Stakes and Canterbury Stakes when those races were rated as Group 2 events.
How do these records compare with the greatest of them all, Phar Lap, Tulloch and Carbine?
Some of the features this champion trio won during their careers like the Champion Stakes, AJC Plate and Autumn Stakes, were prestigious races at that time but are now defunct while others events like the Craven Plate and C.B. Fisher Plate would have rated as Group 1 races many years ago which makes updating the records of past champions difficult and very subjective.
But it is generally considered that Phar Lap won the equivalent of 28 Group 1 races during his phenomenal career with Carbine and Tulloch next on 25 majors each.
Phar Lap also remains the benchmark on Timeform ratings with his lofty 141 figure ranking him among the world's greatest racehorses.
Tulloch and Bernborough come in next on 138 with Kingston Town rating 137. Black Caviar is the highest rated mare of all time on 136 with Winx on 134.
Moody took Black Caviar to England in 2012 where the mare scored a famous win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot which many rate as her crowning achievement.
Black Caviar was injured during the race but still found a way to win under duress. It took a toll on the great mare as she did not race again for nearly seven months, returning to have three more starts in the autumn of 2013, all at Group 1 level, to win the Lightning Stakes, William Reid Stakes and TJ Smith Stakes before she was retired to stud.
Winx's connections are courting offers to take the great mare to England later this year to race at Royal Ascot which could finally earn her world champion status but Moody doesn't believe she has anything to prove on the international stage.
"I don't think Winx needs to go overseas to enhance her reputation,'' Moody said. "All you can do is beat what you are up against and she keeps doing that, year after year.
"Plus, the prizemoney in Australian racing is second-to-none so you certainly aren't going overseas for the money.''
Werrett said it will be interesting to learn what Winx's trainer Chris Waller and her owners decide to do with the mare later this year.
"Do they go for another Cox Plate or go to Royal Ascot?'' Werrett said.
"I can understand if they don't want to go to England because it is not easy to travel all that way.
"It is up to the owners and Chris, it doesn't really matter what the public want because the horse will come first.
"Chris will work out what is best for Winx just as Peter did with Black Caviar.''
Winx is also closing in on another Black Caviar benchmark of 25 wins in succession.
There is a chance Winx could equal Black Caviar's winning streak this autumn. Waller has confirmed after the champion mare runs in the Chipping Norton, she will go to the Group 1 $1 million George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill on March 24 before a decision is made on whether the mare goes overseas.
Winx could equal Black Caviar's 25 wins in the Group 1 $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 14.
Werrett said he wants Winx to continue on her winning way rather than falter so close to Black Caviar's records.
"Black Caviar won all her 25 races in a row, no one will take that away from her for a while,'' Werrett said.
"She was unbeaten but Winx has been beaten. If Winx gets to 25 win or more in succession, it is a superb effort but it is just a little different to what Black Caviar did.''
MOST AUSTRALIAN GROUP 1 WINS
(Since Group and Listed Classifications race system was introduced in 1978-79)
15 Black Caviar, Winx
14 Kingston Town
13 Sunline, Tie The Knot
11 Manikato, Lonhro, Rough Habit
RETROSPECTIVE GROUP 1 WINS
28 Phar Lap
25 Carbine, Tulloch
24 Manikato, Ajax
19 Gloaming, High Caste, Sky High
TIMEFORM RATINGS - ALL-TIME RANKINGS
141 Phar Lap
138 Bernborough, Tulloch
137 Peter Pan, Kingston Town
136 Black Caviar, Todman, Vain
135 Chatham, Tobin Bronze, Better Loosen Up
MOST WORLDWIDE GROUP 1 WINS
(Flat horses only)
16 John Henry
15 Black Caviar, Wins
14 Affirmed, Goldikova, Kingston Town
13 Bayakoa, Spectacular Bid, Sunline, Tie The Knot, Zenyatta