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Only an all-conquering world tour could see Winx match Phar Lap’s stature

Steve Moran | 29.12.2018

I was going to write just about Winx.

It seemed appropriate enough as the year draws to an end, a calendar year that has seen her win another seven races, each at Group 1 level, including a fourth straight Cox Plate.

But I was distracted so two other immortals get a mention. I’ve wandered off the charted course, you might say.

Looking at the Black Caviar and Winx books side by side on the bookshelf. Hearing the voice of Gerard Whateley, who wrote the first mentioned, calling the Ashes cricket on SEN radio.

Seeing a copy of Peter Fitzsimons’ Mutiny On The Bounty on the couch. The former Wallaby’s storytelling and writing style is unusual but this is so compelling, I eschewed all Christmas lunch invitations and settled on the couch, with a glass (OK, a bottle) to read the first 200 pages in record time. Of course, I saw the children – who have children which apparently makes me a grandfather – on Christmas morning.

Fitzsimons’ offerings also include a compendium on Australia’s sporting greats, titled Everyone And Phar Lap. That was sitting just next to the others, at the top right of the bookshelf. For easy access.

I wondered whether Winx or Black Caviar would be ever so acknowledged. Not likely.

The Melbourne Museum still asserts, more than 80 years after he first went on display, Phar Lap remains its most popular exhibit.

An international conquest and a mysteriously tragic death, far from home, obviously fanned the Phar Lap mystique. Nowadays with greater general prosperity, a wider range of diversions and the contemporary shrinkage of attention spans; it’s unlikely any horse will ever be remembered quite like Phar Lap.

“For a nation struggling through all the sinking despair and rising misery of the Depression, Phar Lap was a symbol not only of the possibility of a brighter tomorrow but as often as not a suddenly bright today,” Fitzsimons wrote.

What could Winx do to be so hallowed?

Nothing, methinks.

Another sweep of the Apollo, Chipping Norton, George Ryder and Queen Elizabeth won’t do it. Nothing, on this soil, could surpass her fourth Cox Plate (bar a fifth I suppose).

Winx, adroitly – perhaps even sensitively – managed to date, has won 29 races in a row, 22 at Group 1 level. This is unprecedented and unparalleled. It makes her the best performed racehorse the world has seen.  

A winning world-wide tour, eclipsing Almond Eye in the process, might add to her legacy but such a venture may be more perilous than sailing around the Horn as she rises eight.

Will she go on?

Yes, said the recent Chris Waller Racing press release. But the language left the door well ajar and hinted at no with Waller’s quotes including: “She has nothing left to prove to us or her many followers and we are under no illusion that she is getting a little older…”

“This is not to say that it (retirement) may not happen before her first run of the preparation… and we will not commit to any races as yet but it would be logical to follow the path we have previously…”

Perhaps retirement would be the prudent course but that’s not for me to decide. It would simply be my Christmas wish. One errant step too far and we might have a mutiny on our hands.

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