Hail the Queen: Adoring fans pay homage to Winx in her final Rosehill appearance.

There were five Group Ones at Rosehill last Saturday including the world’s most famous two-year-old race, but the vast majority of the 24,000-strong crowd headed to Sydney’s western suburbs racecourse to see just one horse.

With an unbeaten sequence spanning more than 30 races across almost four years, Winx’s fame has spread well beyond Australian racing circles. She has captured the country’s imagination, as shown by a huge ‘GO WINX’ banner in the skies above Manly Beach last Friday afternoon.

The champion mare’s amazing journey is now nearing its end. After an unprecedented fourth straight Cox Plate win last October, it emerged that a Sydney autumn campaign would be the seven-year-old’s likely swansong – culminating in the A$4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 13.

But first there was last Saturday. The second-last start of the mighty mare’s career was the Gr. 1 George Ryder Stakes, her final raceday appearance on her home track.

The huge grandstand was packed with fans, most of them waving little blue Winx flags. The cheering began as the unbreakable partnership of Winx and jockey Hugh Bowman made their way onto the track for the George Ryder, the fifth race on Saturday’s star-studded programme.

It got louder when the gates opened at the 1500-metre start point, then rose to a roar when Winx began to show her trademark acceleration out wide on the track. The result was never in doubt, but the crowd cheered Winx every step of the way down the straight as she coasted to victory by three and a half lengths.

Bowman brought Winx back along the outside fence, giving thousands of adoring fans a closer look at the wonder mare as U2’s ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ played over the speakers.

It was win number 36 for Winx, the last 32 of them in succession. She has now won 24 Group One races, including the last four editions of the George Ryder Stakes, and her earnings have broken through the A$24 million barrier.

Hugh Bowman shares the moment after Winx’s memorable George Ruder Stakes victory.

Winx has been masterfully handled by expat New Zealand trainer Chris Waller, who has become an Australian celebrity in his own right and was signing dozens of autographs after Saturday’s race.

The George Ryder was the highlight of a remarkable Group One hat-trick on Saturday afternoon for Waller, who also won the Rosehill Guineas with boom colt The Autumn Sun and The Galaxy with new recruit Nature Strip.

“It’s pretty good to have a Group One treble, isn’t it, especially when one of them is Winx,” Waller said. “But full credit to all of them, it’s a great raceday. It’s one for the real special race days in the world, it’s a day for everyone to remember.

“She’s a very special horse. Just a marvellous horse to work with and we owe it to her to be in this position.

“She’s brought the world closer to Australian racing. We can just enjoy this for a racing moment that will be remembered for a long time here.”

Bowman is still coming to terms with the role he has played in the story of an Australian racing legend.

“I would never have imagined growing up that I would be riding one of the greatest horses that has ever lived,” he said.

“When I asked her to stretch she responded and you could hear the crowd roar. The excitement and the emotion, she responds to that as well as anything else, and once again I am just so proud of her and proud to be a part of it.”

Waller’s other two Group One wins were anything but clear-cut. The Autumn Sun had to overcome an almighty challenge from the Kiwi three-year-old Arrogant, while Nature Strip was wobbling in the last 100 metres and held out the late lunge of Pierata by the smallest of margins.

Nature Strip’s win also held some New Zealand significance, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen sharing in the ownership and another expat Kiwi, star jockey James McDonald, in the saddle.

Waller took over the training of the speedy Nature Strip earlier this year following the disqualification of Darren Weir.

“Everyone’s had a go at training this horse,” Waller said. “I probably get the accolade for winning the Group One with him, but there’s been a lot of hard work go into him through the years, so well done to all those trainers as well.

“Great work by James McDonald, he’s put a lot of time into the horse at home, on the training tracks and in his trials.

“He’s a lovely horse to train, we just have to get into his head on raceday that the winning post is not at the 300-metre mark.”

In the A$3.5 million Golden Slipper, James Cummings followed in the footsteps of his legendary grandfather Bart.

Best known for his 12 victories in the Melbourne Cup, Bart Cummings was also an outstanding trainer of precocious two-year-old talent and won the Slipper four times with Storm Queen (1965), Tontonan (1973), Vivarchi (1976) and Century Miss (1979).

“She’s brought the world closer to Australian racing. We can just enjoy this for a racing moment that will be remembered for a long time here.”

James Cummings not only delivered a first Slipper win for Godolphin – he made it a quinella. Kiamichi led all the way from her wide gate for an outstanding win under Melbourne jockey Damien Lane, while Microphone ran on gamely into second. Lyre, another Godolphin runner but this one from the Anthony Freedman stable, completed a remarkable trifecta.

“The guys have done an amazing job all season and they’ve been meticulous with these two-year-olds,” Cummings said. “I’m pretty proud to be associated with the blue jacket at the moment.”

Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin operation has enjoyed a phenomenal season in Australia, with previous highlights including the Melbourne Cup (Cross Counter), Caulfield Cup (Best Solution), Blue Diamond (Lyre), Caulfield Stakes (Benbatl, also second to Winx in the Cox Plate), Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (Jungle Cat) and the Magic Millions  2YO Classic (Exhilarates).

The Kiwi horses were unable to add to the Group One Slipper day spoils won in recent years by Silent Achiever (Ranvet Stakes), Gingernuts, Volkstok’n’barrell, Dundeel and Jimmy Choux (all in the Rosehill Guineas), but they performed with plenty of credit.

Avantage made a triumphant Australian debut in the Gr. 3 Birthday Card Stakes, fighting back after being headed in the straight to score a brilliant win. It was her first appearance since the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes last September.

“She’s always been a high-class filly and hopefully we can work through to The Championships now with a little bit of confidence that she can step up,” trainer Jamie Richards said.

“She’s pencilled to go to the Arrowfield 3YO Sprint (Group Two, Randwick, April 13). We’ll keep her nice and fresh. I think the three weeks suits and hopefully she can be competitive. We’ve got to take on the boys, that’s where the money is and that’s what we’re here for.”

Arrogant and Surely Sacred were second and fourth in the Rosehill Guineas, while Danzdanzdance stormed home for third in the Ranvet. Just ahead of her was (He’s) Eminent, a Group One performer in the northern hemisphere now trained by Sir Mark Todd for Sir Peter Vela.

At the end of an unforgettable raceday, thousands of fans stayed on for an hour-long free concert by Australian Hall of Fame musician Jimmy Barnes. But dozens of those blue flags were still being waved hours after Winx’s George Ryder victory – she was the true headline act.