Winx: is the highest-rated turf horse in the world
PICTURE: Getty Images
WINX proved she is one of the best horses on the planet after landing the Cox Plate by an unbelievable eight lengths at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The five-year-old stretched away from her rivals in a style akin to one of those mechanical arcade machines when one horse inexplicably bursts clear while the rest stutter and spin around on the spot.
She was eased down near the line but still had a huge margin back to Hartnell (118). The rest of the field finished in a tight group, separated by less than seven lengths.
An RPR of 130 made this a career-best performance from the wondermare, putting her ahead of Almanzor (129) and A Shin Hikari (129) at the top of the turf standings for 2016. Once you factor in a mares’ allowance, it also puts her up with world leader California Chrome (133).
The 130 figure also ranks her fourth on the list of the best fillies or mares worldwide this century behind Black Caviar (133), Treve (131) and Goldikova (131).
It would be possible to rate her Cox Plate success even higher if you considered just the first and second, but in finishing so close to the rest of the field this was clearly not Hartnell at his 121 best. An RPR of 118 puts this effort on a par with his two recent wins at Randwick.
It would also be hard to claim French raider Vadamos (fourth) showed his best form as he was keen early, raced on the unfavoured ground near the rail, burst clear a mile from home, clocking the fastest splits of any horse at any point in the race, and then faded.
But even with Winx’s chief formbook rivals running just below par, this still looks a truly world-class effort that puts her miles clear of everything else in the Australian standings.
Her one-sided rivalry with Hartnell is beginning to look like the one-beats-one-beats-all scenario we had with Black Caviar and Hay List, when she was clearly better than him and he was clearly better than the rest. Whenever Hay List ran without Black Caviar in the field he won, but when he ran against her he finished second.
Hartnell has won his last three starts when not up against Winx, including when smashing subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Jameka, and he could yet add a Melbourne Cup win to his fantastic season.
But no matter how many races he wins in her absence, he is simply adding support to the wondermare’s legacy because he has consistently proved no match for her.
Pressure follows Winx everywhere she runs. This is built largely on that sensational winning sequence, which now spans 13 races over 17 months at distances from 6½f to 1m3f and includes nine Group 1s.
Holding back the tears
Trainer Chris Waller feels that pressure. He has won scores of Group 1 races, but Winx has an affect on him like no other horse. When she won the Doncaster Mile in April, and again last weekend, he struggled to rein in the tears in the post-race interview.
Waller arrived in Australia from New Zealand with just five horses in his yard and worked his way to the very top of the sport. Now his hard work is paying off. He is living the dream and sometimes it seems like he can’t believe what he is now part of, but it’s wonderful to see how much a horse like Winx means to him.
Of course, all great winning sequences come to an end eventually, but if Winx can maintain an eight-length margin over Hartnell for the next year it’s hard to imagine her getting beaten in Australia.
She will probably stay down under at least until she attempts a third Cox Plate next year, with a return to Sydney’s The Championships in April also high on the agenda. Beyond that, the plan is to keep her racing as long as she is happy and healthy.
If she is going to stay around another couple of seasons she will probably be defeated somewhere down the line. When that day arrives it will be a punch in the gut for all her fans, but that is only because, based on what she did on Saturday and what she keeps on doing, there is no reason to expect it.
Winx would be well up to winning a Group 1 race or two in Europe provided she handles the travel and the different style of racing. Waller sent over Brazen Beau to finish second in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in 2015 and although Waller hasn’t completely ruled out a trip to Royal Ascot in 2017, he has suggested he will keep her on home turf next year.
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