Infotainment Factory: What separates Winx from legends

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Friday, 12 April 2019

What separates Winx from legends


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When Winx claps on the speed and starts eating up the ground in front of her in one last devastating burst at Randwick this afternoon, she'll be pulling a bandwagon of supporters like never seen before in Australian racing.

The great horse's last race comes at the peak of her popularity. Having chalked up 32 race wins in a streak that has long since eclipsed the previous Australasian record of 26, she will jump out of the barriers with champion jockey Hugh Bowman aboard for one final time in front of a packed house.

Many in the crowd will be wearing 'Winx blue'. Some will be trackside for the first time. This isn't just a horse race, it's the opportunity to witness history and farewell a legend that, perhaps more than any Australian horse before her, has won over the mainstream.

Winx makes it thirty on the trot

The reason? That moment in just about every Winx race when it looks like Bowman's given her too much to do.

Never before has a champion won so consistently from so far back. In a sport like horse racing where the spectators' enjoyment is often intrinsically linked to the size of their wager, it's a racing style that provides a surge of adrenaline few sportsmen or other performers can match.

The line between agony and ecstasy is wafer thin yet for 32 consecutive races, Winx has found her way to the right side of that equation.

It's why it doesn't matter whether Winx is considered the equal or less of other recent greats like Black Caviar or Makybe Diva or further back to Sunline or even Phar Lap.

She's the people's champion and that's one heck of a legacy.

Even Richard Freedman, a horse trainer from a family of famous horse trainers, concedes that he's been suckered in by Winx's habit of leaving her run to the finishing post shockingly late.

"A couple of years ago a couple of times I said it (that I thought she was in trouble in a race) and then I’ve learnt not to say it," Freedman admits to Wide World of Sports.

"That’s one of the reasons people enjoy watching her, because there is that element of doubt and she always comes through, so I think people enjoy that."

While Aussie sports fans love a thrill, they love a winner even more and never before has a horse with such a heart-in-mouth method of winning won so often.

Asked to compare Winx to another horse who won races in such swashbuckling fashion, Freedman cites a stallion who thrilled crowds in the 1940s, Bernborough, as well as Kiwi Cox Plate winner Super Impose.

Neither were in the class of Winx though, he's quick to clarify.

Even if she's incomparable in terms of her consistency in winning from the back of the field, there will the obvious temptation to put Winx's career up against the greatest racehorses we've ever seen and wonder if she's the best.

Freedman doesn't expect an unthinkable loss in her last race to impact that debate or Winx's overall legacy but he's willing to have a go at summarising it.

"I think to Australians she’ll be seen as every bit as big a champion as Black Caviar, they were both fabulous horses, different horses," Freedman said.

"Winx has won over a far greater range of distances which makes her a more versatile horse and her racing style is a bit more exciting than Black Caviar’s; Black Caviar used to just sit up next to them and then run away.

Winx prepares for goodbye to Rosehill

"Winx sits up at the back and just gets them over the last hundred metres, so I think Winx will be remembered more vividly than Black Caviar, but I don’t want to take anything away from Black Caviar either, she was a champion too."

However, for whatever reason, Winx's lofty position in the eyes of the public is perhaps not quite mirrored by the professionals involved in the horse racing industry, according to Freedman.

"To the professionals, they’ll still rate Black Caviar, Makybe Diva and Sunline (alongside Phar Lap) as the four great mares to have raced over the last hundred years and they won’t want to split them, even though Winx has got a better record than all of them," he says.

To most who gather at Royal Randwick or flock to the TV screens this afternoon for one last glimpse at the great entertainer of the track, such debates are unimportant anyway.

Even with a classy field to contend with Winx, as always, is quoted at ridiculously short odds but the flood of money sure to come for her on race day will likely shorten them still, perhaps to about $1.05.

The punters won't be deterred. Just one last time they'll get to feel their heart jump into their throat as Bowman waits until the last conceivable moment to prompt the great champion to take her stage.

In a flash she'll shoot into top gear and the crowd will erupt.

What a champion. What a thrill.

When Winx claps on the speed and starts eating up the ground in front of her in one last devastating burst at Randwick this afternoon, she'll be pulling a bandwagon of supporters like never seen before in Australian racing.

The great horse's last race comes at the peak of her popularity. Having chalked up 32 race wins in a streak that has long since eclipsed the previous Australasian record of 26, she will jump out of the barriers with champion jockey Hugh Bowman aboard for one final time in front of a packed house.

Many in the crowd will be wearing 'Winx blue'. Some will be trackside for the first time. This isn't just a horse race, it's the opportunity to witness history and farewell a legend that, perhaps more than any Australian horse before her, has won over the mainstream.

Winx makes it thirty on the trot

The reason? That moment in just about every Winx race when it looks like Bowman's given her too much to do.

Never before has a champion won so consistently from so far back. In a sport like horse racing where the spectators' enjoyment is often intrinsically linked to the size of their wager, it's a racing style that provides a surge of adrenaline few sportsmen or other performers can match.

The line between agony and ecstasy is wafer thin yet for 32 consecutive races, Winx has found her way to the right side of that equation.

It's why it doesn't matter whether Winx is considered the equal or less of other recent greats like Black Caviar or Makybe Diva or further back to Sunline or even Phar Lap.

She's the people's champion and that's one heck of a legacy.

Even Richard Freedman, a horse trainer from a family of famous horse trainers, concedes that he's been suckered in by Winx's habit of leaving her run to the finishing post shockingly late.

"A couple of years ago a couple of times I said it (that I thought she was in trouble in a race) and then I’ve learnt not to say it," Freedman admits to Wide World of Sports.

"That’s one of the reasons people enjoy watching her, because there is that element of doubt and she always comes through, so I think people enjoy that."

While Aussie sports fans love a thrill, they love a winner even more and never before has a horse with such a heart-in-mouth method of winning won so often.

Asked to compare Winx to another horse who won races in such swashbuckling fashion, Freedman cites a stallion who thrilled crowds in the 1940s, Bernborough, as well as Kiwi Cox Plate winner Super Impose.

Neither were in the class of Winx though, he's quick to clarify.

Even if she's incomparable in terms of her consistency in winning from the back of the field, there will the obvious temptation to put Winx's career up against the greatest racehorses we've ever seen and wonder if she's the best.

Freedman doesn't expect an unthinkable loss in her last race to impact that debate or Winx's overall legacy but he's willing to have a go at summarising it.

"I think to Australians she’ll be seen as every bit as big a champion as Black Caviar, they were both fabulous horses, different horses," Freedman said.

"Winx has won over a far greater range of distances which makes her a more versatile horse and her racing style is a bit more exciting than Black Caviar’s; Black Caviar used to just sit up next to them and then run away.

Winx prepares for goodbye to Rosehill

"Winx sits up at the back and just gets them over the last hundred metres, so I think Winx will be remembered more vividly than Black Caviar, but I don’t want to take anything away from Black Caviar either, she was a champion too."

However, for whatever reason, Winx's lofty position in the eyes of the public is perhaps not quite mirrored by the professionals involved in the horse racing industry, according to Freedman.

"To the professionals, they’ll still rate Black Caviar, Makybe Diva and Sunline (alongside Phar Lap) as the four great mares to have raced over the last hundred years and they won’t want to split them, even though Winx has got a better record than all of them," he says.

To most who gather at Royal Randwick or flock to the TV screens this afternoon for one last glimpse at the great entertainer of the track, such debates are unimportant anyway.

Even with a classy field to contend with Winx, as always, is quoted at ridiculously short odds but the flood of money sure to come for her on race day will likely shorten them still, perhaps to about $1.05.

The punters won't be deterred. Just one last time they'll get to feel their heart jump into their throat as Bowman waits until the last conceivable moment to prompt the great champion to take her stage.

In a flash she'll shoot into top gear and the crowd will erupt.

What a champion. What a thrill.

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