Winx: the wondermare has won her last 13 starts
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Mark Scully in Melbourne 6:58AM 22 OCT 2016
Report: Australia, Saturday
Moonee Valley: William Hill Cox Plate (Group 1) 1m2f44y, turf, 3yo+
WONDERMARE Winx (Chris Waller/ Hugh Bowman) put in an astonishing performance to retain her Cox Plate title and extend her winning sequence to 13.
Hartnell, who had comfortably beaten subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Jameka on his latest start, had been viewed as a formidable rival in one of the most eagerly-anticipated contests in recent history, and the big clash looked on as he moved into the lead on the approach to the turn.
However, Winx was travelling strongly in his slipstream and quickly asserted her superiority, cruising into the lead and motoring clear in the straight to win by the best part of eight lengths.
Hartnell held on for second from Yankee Rose, while European raider Vadamos was fourth after cutting out the early running.
Royal Ascot raid?
The five-year-old mare Winx had already won eight times at Group 1 level but this was her finest performance yet, one which asserted her status as one of the best horses in the world.
Trainer Chris Waller, who described the experience as being “like a dream”, suggested that a third Cox Plate would be Winx’s primary target next year, but he also left open the tantalising prospect of Winx racing in Europe.
“This is Australia’s biggest race and we’d love to win a third one. Getting to the other side of the world would be good but we’ll be back next year. This is what we’re here for,” he said.
Sky Bet make Winx 5-1 to win any race at Royal Ascot in 2017 – where she would have the Queen Anne and Prince Of Wales’s Stakes as viable targets – and 5-2 to win the Cox Plate for the third year in succession.
Winx was sent off as the 4-5 favourite by her legion of followers and she is sure to have attracted a few more with a stunning display.
“She was pretty special – you never expect to win like that,” Waller said. “To get back here again, with the build-up, it’s been fantastic and for her to win like that, it’s fitting for the horse she is.
“I’m very proud and this is just fantastic for racing. It’s like a dream, simple as that.”
An emotional jockey Hugh Bowman said: “When we came out to the track I could hear all the cheering and I was very moved. I’m lost for words.”
‘I thought I was going all right!’
James McDonald, who finished second aboard Hartnell, praised Winx’s performance. “Wow, I don’t know what to say – I was going all right! She put me to bed pretty quickly,” the rider said.
“To be fair to my fellow he tried hard and this definitely is not his track. Winx got to him fairly quickly and put him under pressure a fair way from home.
“I suppose he was brave in defeat, but jeez, she was unreal!”