Any thoughts Winx might not be as good or not as fast as she was, too old at seven or vulnerable over 1400 metres were scotched at Randwick today in just under 81 seconds as the great mare notched her 30th consecutive win in the Apollo Stakes.
For trainer Chris Waller, as always relief was the over-riding emotion. Relief when she returns safely from her races and relief he has made the right decisions, particularly to keep her racing after her record fourth Cox Plate in October.
Today there was also a heap of pride and wonder at what a horse of Winx’s status can do for racing, which has been beset by headlines in past weeks regarding leading Victorian trainer Darren Weir and his disqualification and this week Queensland’s Ben Currie, who has been asked to show why he should not be suspended.
The charges against both involved illegal electronic devices known as jiggers.
“What she does for racing makes me proud,” Waller said. “It’s a great sport and she’s a true headline act and puts racing in a positive light.”
Winx started the $1.10 favourite to extend her winning streak in the Gr. 2 Apollo Stakes, with Sydney’s second favourite horse Happy Clapper next at $11. And that’s how it panned out with Hugh Bowman easing the mare up to Happy Clapper before strolling to a two and a quarter-length win.
“Relief is what I’m feeling,” Waller said. “We take it so personally. She can’t tell us when she’s had enough. We made the decision to push on a bit further.”
In the lead-up to the Apollo there were questions whether Winx could come back as a seven-year-old or maybe it was just wishful thinking by her opponents.
Waller and the mare’s jockey Hugh Bowman had no reason to doubt her. Bowman said the race panned out pretty much as he expected.
“The pace of the race was very even which suited us,” he said. “I had to niggle her to hold her position closer than I normally would over a bit further, especially when I could see the path that Sam was plotting on Happy Clapper out of pure respect for that horse’s ability.
“We needed to be within striking distance. But as the race unfolded we settled into a lovely rhythm as we always do. It was a pretty comfortable race for me and it was pretty comfortable for Winx too.
“She was in pure control.”
A crowd of 15,330, most dressed in blue, came to see Winx as the clock begins ticking on her career which is likely to consist of three more starts – the Chipping Norton, George Ryder and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Given she generally gets better as her campaign goes on, there is no reason to think her winning sequence will end.
Winx covered the 1400m in a race record 1:20.88s, which was also just .55s off Trapeze Artist’s track record.
Happy Clapper’s trainer Pat Webster was among the first to congratulate Waller, with the traditional rivals to meet again in the Chipping Norton Stakes in two weeks.
Relief was also the emotion Webster felt after Happy Clapper’s first race since he bled in Melbourne in September. “I was rapt with that and he’s pulled up good which was our main concern,” he said.
Webster is hoping Happy Clapper’s Apollo performance is enough proof he deserves his spot in the A$5 million All Star Mile at Flemington on March 16.