Published: 26 Oct 2016
All eyes on our champ - Winx (third from left) jumps from the barriers in the 2016 Cox Plate
What a journey it's been. Like any racing fans, The Race Guide's team has followed WINX every step of the way, hours of analysis seemingly wasted on a horse that is simply one of the best we have ever seen.
A well-bred type by Street Cry, her talent wasn't always so obvious in the early days though.
We tell the story of her 23 starts, 17 wins and 9 Group Ones below.
First Campaign: The Early Days
4th June 2014 at Warwick Farm
It was an inconspicuous Warwick Farm meeting back in 2014 where she made her debut over 1,100 metres in a two-year-old fillies race. Jumping to around midfield, she was always niggled in the run, and you had the right to be nervous if you'd been part of the support that saw her backed from $7 into $5.
What happened from the 300 metres to the winning post was the early signs of this mare's true freakish ability. Little did we know at the time! While others tired, she kept lifting to the line and ran down the speedy FELINES, who had won her first two starts before meeting the champ. A mare that turned out to be a Group-level sprinter in her own right.
28th June 2014 at Rosehill Gardens
What we knew from her debut run was that she had talent and was looking for longer distances so Waller stepped her straight to Saturday city class over 1,400 metres at Rosehill Gardens.
"The Street Cry filly ran home strongly over 1,100m and gives every indication the 1,400m tomorrow will be right up her alley."
The Sportsman, 27th June 2014
The word from Waller was that she was showing real promise, but needed time to mature. Something that could be seen from The Race Guide's yard images from the day. She was noted to be a "light, lean and athletic type with not much muscle".
She had to chase down the bigger, stronger INZ'N'OUT, who like Felines was unbeaten at the time. Once again WINX looked in real trouble 250 metres from home before surging past late at the odds of $1.45.
Two tough wins that earnt her time in the spelling paddock.
Needed time to mature - Winx didn't carry much muscle in comparison to the other horses in the yard (Rosehill 28.06.14)
Second Campaign: Met her Match?
Group 2 Furious Stakes, 6th September 2014 at Royal Randwick
The early boom on the unbeaten WINX didn't subside after a dominant first-up win at Royal Randwick during the spring season in 2014. Alongside the leaders at the 150 metre mark, she managed to storm clear by 2.8 lengths from ALPHA MISS and EARTHQUAKE over 1,200 metres on a heavy track. A win that even surprised the stable.
"That was unexpected today because it was such a dominant win. We thought she would be better over the 1400 metres in two weeks."
Liam Prior, Chris Waller's racing manager
Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes, 20th September 2014 at Royal Randwick
After the first three performances, it was no surprise to see her start as a very short-priced favourite over the 1,400 metres of the Tea Rose second-up.
But it was another filly that stole the headlines!
WINX jumped well and settled outside EARTHQUAKE on the pace this time and they duelled down the straight, only for FIRST SEAL to burst up the inside from the box seat.
"First Seal has hit the lead! Here's a boilover!"
Mark Shean, racecaller
First Seal arrives - Winx and Earthquake were no match back in the spring of 2014 (Randwick 20.09.14)
Group 1 Flight Stakes, 4th October 2014 at Royal Randwick
After the surprise win of FIRST SEAL two weeks earlier, the Group 1 Flight Stakes was set-up as a classic showdown between the two fillies, WINX starting at $2.7 to turn the tables on the $2.3 favourite.
WINX was well beaten though, her lack of power and muscle compared to FIRST SEAL costing her dearly. She was out-sprinted into the straight and chased hard late for 2nd a full three lengths behind.
WINX was a very good filly, but no champion.
Simply too strong - The more muscular First Seal sprinted much too quickly for the light athletic Winx (Randwick 4.10.14)
Third Campaign: Time to Toughen Up
Group 2 Lightfinger Stakes, 14th February 2015 at Royal Randwick
Despite FIRST SEAL's dominant spring, WINX still started $5 to beat her as they both resumed four months later. In the end, Gai Waterhouse's ADRIFT caused a boilover at the odds of $41, beating home FIRST SEAL, with WINX running home up the boggy inside ground from last for a lowly 7th.
Her worst ever finishing position.
Group 2 Surround Stakes, 28th February 2015 at Warwick Farm
It was then off to Warwick Farm over 1,400 metres and FIRST SEAL returned to winning ways, WINX taken back to last again before winding up for 5th, 4.8 lengths behind the glamour girl of the time.
Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes, 14th March 2015 at Rosehill Gardens
Maybe she was fitter, she was definitely getting a little bit stronger, because this start WINX started to add acceleration to the class and stamina she'd shown so far. Settling out the back with HAURAKI on her inside, she quickened every bit as well as the Godolphin star before striding clear late with her signature burst.
This was an impressive win!
"..and she's put them to the sword!"
Mark Shean, racecaller
"It was a slow tempo and she was shuffled back but was just way too good."
Tommy Berry, jockey
Back with a bang - Winx won the Phar Lap Stakes brilliantly, running home at a rapid rate (Rosehill 14.3.15)
Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes, 28th March 2015 at Rosehill Gardens
She lined up against her nemesis again at Group 1 level, WINX starting at $5.5 and FIRST SEAL at $1.8 after narrowly missing in the Group 1 Coolmore Stakes two weeks earlier.
In a close finish, FIRST SEAL couldn't get past the on-pacer FENWAY, while WINX was blocked 300 metres from home as Tommy Berry took the wrong option at a key moment. She ran on late for a credible 5th and would have been right in the finish with even luck.
Group 1 ATC Oaks, 11th April 2015 at Royal Randwick
Punters spotted her unlucky effort in the Vinery and she was sent out a well-backed $2.8 favourite to win her maiden Group 1 in the classic fillies race, the Oaks.
Unfortunately for Waller and her supporters, it wasn't to be again, this time track bias playing a part as GUST OF WIND found the better inside ground and broke clear of WINX chasing 2.5 lengths away in 2nd.
The frustration was to be short-lived as the stable planned an assault on the Queensland carnival that proved to be the turning point.
Second best - Winx was maturing, but couldn't quite break through for a Group 1 during the Sydney Autumn Carnival (Randwick 11.4.15)
Group 3 Sunshine Coast Guineas, 16th May 2015 at Sunshine Coast
Chris Waller is famous for meticulously planning his horses' schedules and he would have put a lot of thought into sending WINX up north to Queensland after what was already a very testing campaign. She had a quiet barrier trial following on from the Oaks and was sent to the Sunshine Coast as a lead-up run to the Group 1 Queensland Oaks a couple of weeks later.
In an easier race, the market kept her at $2.6, some thinking that she wouldn't be asked for much ahead of her main assignment. They were right... for the first 1,000 metres at least!
The words of jockey Larry Cassidy best describe how the race played out. A simply unbelievable win!
“At the 1000m I thought ‘This is not good’, (and) at the 600m it was even worse. I was in an impossible position. I just made the decision to come to the outside. If I was going to get beat, I didn’t want it to be because I was on the inside behind horses.
That was just breathtaking.
It’s a long time since I’ve been on one that let’s down like that.”
Larry Cassidy, jockey
Group 1 Queensland Oaks, 30th May 2015 at Doomben
Hugh Bowman jumped back on for the first time since WINX's 2nd in the Group 1 Flight Stakes and the pressure was on as a $1.95 favourite. It seemed only bad luck could beat her and Bowman charted a wider course to make sure of the result.
WINX zoomed down the outside from the back, hit the lead at the 100 metre mark and strode right away to win by a widening 3.5 lengths.
She'd won her first Group 1 in dominant style.
"This is a monstrous win in the Oaks!"
Alan Thomas, racecaller
With a decision made to send her to the paddock, Waller started to describe what sort of standard she could get to, marking out the Group 1 Myer Classic for mares as the likely target.
He wouldn't of dared dream what happened next.
"I think she will make a very good 1600-metre horse later in her career and the Myer Classic during the spring should be ideal for her."
Chris Waller, trainer
Fourth Campaign: This is Getting Serious
Group 2 Theo Marks, 12th September 2015 at Rosehill Gardens
After only one barrier trial and over the shorter distance of 1,300 metres, WINX would have been forgiven for running well without winning this competitive sprint.
James McDonald took the reins this time and had to urge her along mid-race as she tailed off to the back of the field. Still last at the 300 metres, he guided her to the outside and she found top gear quickly, eating up the Rosehill turf and arriving on the line to beat SONS OF JOHN.
Impossible position - Winx (far right) was still last 300 metres from home before flying at them late (Rosehill 12.9.15)
Group 1 Epsom, 3rd October 2015 at Royal Randwick
Back to the Randwick mile for the first time since her Flight Stakes defeat to FIRST SEAL, WINX returned a different horse. Visibly stronger in the mounting yard, she had much more muscle, yet retained her athleticism and free-flowing stride.
The extra power was just what she needed to score her second Group 1 win with ease, despite copping a few checks in the run. Waller was delighted and now had no reason not to press onto the Cox Plate.
"For her to pick herself up after that and put herself back in the race before bursting through like she did, it was pretty special,"
Chris Waller, trainer
The real deal - Winx had gone from a horse searching for a Group 1 win, to a potential champion winning them with ease (Randwick 3.10.15)
Group 1 Cox Plate, 24th October 2015 at Moonee Valley
After four straight wins, WINX had earnt a crack at Australia's premiere weight-for-age race, the Cox Plate. Aidan O'Brien's import HIGHLAND REEL and the globe-trotting CRITERION provided stiff opposition on paper and most expected a closely-fought finish. WINX sent out a $4.6 favourite, one of five horses starting the race under $10.
No-one saw what was coming next.
Given a perfect ride by Bowman, WINX got a dream run up the inside and strode clear to break the track record and put a 4.75 length margin on CRITERION and HIGHLAND REEL, both multiple Group 1 winners with over $5 million in the bank each.
It was 2 minutes 2.98 seconds that took her from being a local star to a global "champion".
A title Waller wouldn't admit to... yet.
Into legend - Winx broke Might and Power's 1998 track record by over half a second, about 3.5 lengths faster (Moonee Valley 24.10.15)
Fifth Campaign: She's a Champion!
Group 2 Apollo Stakes, 13th February 2016 at Royal Randwick
It seemed like nothing could beat WINX after that stunning Cox Plate win and she dominated the Sydney Autumn Carnival, starting off with a strong return over 1,400 metres.
The in-form SOLICIT gave her a bunny to catch and Bowman guided her through for a soft 1 length win on the line.
Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes, 27th February 2016 at Royal Randwick
Not many on-pacers were winning on a tricky day at Randwick for both punters and jockeys. Smartly, Bowman put WINX into the race on the turn and she chased down DIBAYANI before striding clear by 1.5 lengths at the odds of $1.35.
Job done again.
Group 1 George Ryder Stakes, 19th March 2016 at Rosehill Gardens
Revenge would be sweet for Waller and WINX after FIRST SEAL had beaten her on so many occasions as a three-year-old.
Now four, WINX had come of age, winning easily again from stable-mates KERMADEC and PRESS STATEMENT, FIRST SEAL no match 4.7 lengths behind. Looking back to the Surround Stakes where WINX was beaten 4.8 lengths by the same horse shows just how far she'd come.
She'd climbed Everest in the weight-for-age ranks, now it was time to take on the best handicap mile in the country.
Group 1 Doncaster Handicap, 2nd April 2016 at Royal Randwick
A 56.5kg weight was allotted to WINX, more than fair based on her amazing record over the past year, and wet weather conditions in Sydney over the autumn set the scene for a very testing Doncaster Mile.
FIRST SEAL carried 3.5kg less, HAPPY CLAPPER got an 8kg turnaround from the George Ryder and flying Melbourne mare AZKADELLIA had just 50kg on her back.
After a rapid tempo set by Kathy O'Hara on VERGARA, WINX looked in trouble under urging from Bowman on the turn, before winding up through tight gaps and producing her now trademark finish. HAPPY CLAPPER and AZKADELLIA a clear 2 lengths behind.
It was enough for Waller to publicly admit just how good she was.
"I thought she was beaten at the half mile, let alone the 600-metre mark.
She's a champion, I thought today was the day she could be beaten."
Chris Waller, trainer
Australia's champ - The crowd reaches for a photograph after Winx takes out the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (Royal Randwick, 2nd April 2016)
Sixth Campaign: Reaching New Heights
Group 2 Warwick Stakes, 20th August 2016 at Royal Randwick
Back to weight-for-age conditions, nothing got close to WINX in the early Sydney spring, Bowman guiding her home for a 3.5 length win over HARTNELL first-up, who went on to win his next three starts by huge margins.
“She is much stronger now. This year she is 14kg heavier, it is muscle."
Chris Waller, trainer
Group 1 George Main Stakes, 17th September 2016 at Royal Randwick
After HARTNELL had chased her home first-up, it was another Godolphin galloper's turn to take her on. HAURAKI was brave running 2nd 1.3 lengths behind, before going on to win the Group 1 Epsom next start.
If you needed proof of just how strong "WINX-form" was, that was it!
“There is nothing like that winning feeling. The dream continues,’’
Chris Waller, trainer
Group 1 Caulfield Stakes, 8th October 2016 at Caulfield
With a big weight expected in the Epsom, WINX arrived in Melbourne earlier than she had done the year before and took her place in the Caulfield Stakes over 2,000 metres.
The Melbourne trainers didn't exactly greet her with excitement though, only Darren Weir (BLACK HEART BART) and David Hayes (HE OR SHE) putting forward horses as competition.
WINX duly despatched them by 2 lengths on her way to a Cox Plate defence.
Gliding past - Winx beat home Group 1 winner Black Heart Bart and He or She with ease (Caulfield 8.10.16)
Group 1 Cox Plate, 22nd October 2016 at Moonee Valley
WINX was already the star of the Australian turf before Cox Plate day this year, a run of twelve straight wins and regular Group 1 glory had ensured that. Even before her second tilt at the big race, she had been declared a "champion" by her usually reserved trainer and a mare that was "galloping with the greats" by leading journalist Ray Thomas.
Reading the race guides ahead of the race we all built up a picture of how good she was. Clearly a champion, the best horse in Australia, with a legitimate threat from the flying HARTNELL. Godolphin's gelding had beaten Caulfield Cup winner JAMEKA by a big space at his previous start in the Turnbull Stakes.
WINX defies numbers and statistics though. She's a mare with no flaws, the ultimate athlete and the ultimate professional.
An extraordinary eight length win over HARTNELL left the crowd in raptures and saw her climb to a level we haven't seen before.
Our mighty mare is now in the stratosphere and she's not looking down.
Sky is not the limit - The superstar mare rockets clear of the Cox Plate field to roars from the crowd (Moonee Valley 22.10.16)