Steve Moran

Not even Winx’s owners could dream of the ride the champion has taken them on, Steve reports

The thing about champions is that the odds are too short for most of us, including owners, to back them. Steve speaks to Peter Tighe, co-owner of champion mare Winx (Street Cry).

Peter Tighe says he hasn’t bet on Winx in any of her past 20-odd starts. Not even when she was a now very alluring $5 into $4.60 in the 2015 Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m). She’s started odds-on in each of her 16 wins since that first Cox Plate success.

“I backed Preferment at the better odds, not Winx,” Tighe concedes. In his defence, Tighe’s Magic Bloodstock also had an ownership interest in Preferment (Zabeel) who was coming off wins in the Hill Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) and Turnbull Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m). Even Hughie Bowman agonised over which horse he would ride.

That, of course, was before Winx was Winx. She won by four and three quarter lengths in course record time. Preferment was ninth, beaten almost 13 lengths.

“Winx keeps winning and I keep losing on the punt. That’s the way it’s gone. The story for most punters I guess,” he said.

Tighe prefers, again like most punters, to look for a bit of value so there’s little attraction in the odds offered against Winx winning. Notwithstanding the TAB, this week, reported one bet of $106,500 at $1.15 on Winx. That would return, by the way, a profit of $15,975.

The Brisbane-based Tighe, who has extensive interests in fruit and vegetable wholesale, import and export, did at least back Winx when she won at her first start at Warwick Farm in June 2014. Not that there was a massive push for her.

“Chris (Waller) had another one in the race named Lucy’s Look and it was well backed but Winx settled back and ran over the top of them. I remember the caller Mark Shean saying something like ‘that was a good win and she looks a very promising filly.”

“But even then we didn’t think much more of her than to hope we might have one good enough to win on a Saturday in town. That first win was a midweek meeting. Chris had never said we had a star on our hands after an early jump out or trial but he’s not one for that. He wants to see than do it raceday. We’d joked about her being really good before she’d raced but we didn’t really know,” he said.

Tighe races the great mare in partnership with Debbie Kepitis and Richard Treweeke. The connection between Tighe and Kepitis, the daughter of Bob Ingham, came via Tighe’s Queensland trainer Alan Bailey and Sydney trainer Kevin Moses who’d been helped by Bailey.

“That was ten years ago and Kevin’s wife Jenny put together an all-girl syndicate to race a horse… so she was a bit of a pioneer in that regard. The syndicate included Debbie (Kepitis) and my wife Patty and the horse was called Perchance (Falvelon) and he chalked up a lot of seconds before he broke through in a maiden worth $100,000 at Eagle Farm. So, perchance that’s how it began,” he said.

Tighe did not attend a Cox Plate until 2011 when Pinker Pinker (Reset) won. “That was at Debbie’s invitation. I’d always watched the race of course and often imagined what it would be like to be there. Not sure I’d imagined what it would be like to win the race,” he said.

Tighe admits that dual Cox Plate winner Sunline (Desert Sun), the mare so often rated against Winx, was his ‘favourite’ during the time he watched the race from afar. “She was very good to me on the punt,” he says of Sunline.

Not that it’s all about the punt but it was imprinted for Tighe, as it was for many of us from an early age, by our fathers – in his case, Kevin. “Dad was a pretty avid punter,” he says.

Kepitis’ clearest first recall of the Cox Plate was Octagonal (Zabeel), in 1995, winning in the cerise silks of father Bob and his late brother Jack. “We were at a wedding and my husband Paul had the radio earpiece fed up under his suit so we could know what was going on.

“With the family we had the disappointment of Lonhro (by Octagonal) not quite handling the Valley track but then exactly 20 years after Octagonal, Winx comes out and wins her first so that was special. It’s the race you want to win, the race for the purists,” she said. Lonhro rarely failed. He won 26 of 35 starts but was beaten in the Cox Plates of 2002 and 2003.

Royal Ascot is also ‘racing for the purists’ and Tighe perhaps offered the tiniest of hints that that is strongly on the Winx agenda. “I’ve never been to Royal Ascot. One day for sure, hopefully next year,” he said. He did have a taste of international racing with Preferment running seventh in the 2015 Hong Kong Vase (Gr 1, 2400m).

The racing journey began for Tighe with a horse called Franciscan Magic (Our Horizon) 22 years ago. “We had a half share in him and he cost $6,000. He won four races with Alan Bailey and won enough for us to buy a few more so were hooked from the word go and I’ll be racing horses long after Winx has gone from the track,” he said.

As to the experience of racing the horse who is arguably the world’s best? “It’s enjoyable. It’s fantastic really, not nerve-wracking. You can’t get let it get to you or overplay it. Just enjoy it for what it is. It’s the old story that you will meet the same people on the way down as on the way up,” he said.

Tighe doesn’t ‘overplay’ it. “Why did you choose gate six,” he was asked at the Cox Plate barrier draw. “I just did what I was told,” he said with a glance to jockey Bowman. “In this whole thing, I just do as I’m told.”