‘Winx is unquestionably a champion and one of the greatest racehorses of all time’
It has reduced everything to the lowest common denominator, eliminated rigorous debate, desensitised all of us and given us – not journalists or accomplished broadcasters – but media performers…like Matt Chapman.
Reluctant though I may be to give Chapman’s comments about Winx’s lack of quality opposition any more airtime, his comments prompted me to want to make the case for Winx which isn’t of course necessary but a matter of interest.
The mare is unquestionably a champion and one of the greatest racehorses of all time.
It is ridiculously easy to refute Chapman’s argument.
Chapman is a master of his genre – media performer. He knows which subjects will strike a chord with the audience and he is very good at expressing his view – albeit with very limited research.
Let’s focus on the Cox Plate to establish her international form-lines.
Her first win (2015) came in track record time finishing 4.75 lengths clear of Criterion and 5.5 lengths ahead of Highland Reel whom Chapman dismissed as a horse who’d done little at the time.
At his very next start, Highland Reel won the Hong Kong International Vase beating Flintshire who, at his previous start, had beaten all but Golden Horn in the Prix de l’arc de Triomphe.
Criterion, that year, had finished closer to Free Eagle in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes than he later did to Winx. Free Eagle, despite interference from the winner, next start finished third to the aforementioned Golden Horn in the Irish Champion Stakes who had no less than the Derby, The Eclipse and the Arc also on his CV.
As a measure of Criterion’s quality but inferiority to Winx consider that, a year earlier, he had finished four lengths closer to Adelaide in the Cox Plate. Adelaide came off a Secretariat Stakes win over Tourist, a multiple Group 1 winner in the USA who’d beaten Royal Ascot winners Tepin and Undrafted.
Pretty darn decent form-lines I’d say.
In 2016, Winx won the Cox Plate by eight lengths. The form behind hardly matters. The runner-up was Hartnell who’s too readily dismissed by Englishmen. He’d had only 13 starts in the UK before being loaded on to the convict ship and improved dramatically in this country.
Vadamos was almost ten lengths astern in fourth place. He’d run Ribchester to a half length in the Prix Jacque La Marois. The same Ribchester who, like Tepin, won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Last year, she again won in track record time from Humidor with the only international runner Folkswood beaten 4.65 lengths into third place. Now the Chapman’s of the world might want to tell us that Folkswood is ‘no good’. However he has a Group 1 neck second to Decorated Knight on his record.
Decorated Knight won the 2017 Irish Champion Stakes beating Poet’s Word which ties in the form with the current ‘guns’ of UK and European racing – Enable, Cracksman, Roaring Lion and Crystal Ocean.
Some might argue that such form-lines are tenuous but it’s the basis of the game – the form of one horse against another and endeavouring to then line them up.
Chapman’s argument that there are fewer horses in Australia rated 120 and above is irrelevant. Each race only needs two quality competitors to make it a legitimate contest.
And races are just that. It’s about who runs the quickest and Winx runs quick times. She’s done it over a broader distance range and on a wider variety of track surfaces than either Frankel or Black Caviar.
She could, I suspect, be trained to win The Everest or the Arc.
She’d smack that out and out wet-tracker Cracksman at any distance in my view and probably beat Enable whose Arc wins have come arguably in weak years. After all, Cloth of Stars has been placed in each.
I’m glad I’ve been riled as I concede I was slow to come around. Yes, I recall mounting an argument some time ago that she wasn’t necessarily better than Sunline.
Not anymore. Irrespective of what happens today – and I would not tempt fate by saying what I think will happen – I’m now just bewildered by my own stupidity and how her 28 race winning streak has not been tagged as one of, if not, the greatest sporting achievements of all time. She should be on the cover of Time magazine.
Perhaps Black Caviar and Frankel are partly to blame, remaining unbeaten as they did and thus having the population think that this is the norm.
This is not the norm. The champions of the past were occasionally beaten. Some were regularly beaten. None stretched 28 wins together racing in the best races of whatever jurisdiction which housed them and against whatever opposition was thrown at them.
How has she not been embraced to an even greater extent?
Perhaps it is that blasted tranquilliser called Television. How else could we become inured to a horse winning 28 consecutive races at the highest level?
Because television displays the good and the bad with such easy access we now shrug our shoulders at the wondrous and the horrific.
Imagine how many people would be at Moonee Valley today if there were no television. Imagine if you had to make an effort to see her.
How could we entertain her greatness being questioned?
I wish I were a better writer. I’d love to write something about Winx which might be quoted in 50 years time. I’m struggling.
I am sure, however, that today’s twenty and thirty something racing fans will be talking about her in years to come as past generations have done of Phar Lap or Tulloch or Kingston Town or Bernbrough – regardless of what I or Mr Chapman have to say.
Winx is great. Winx is a great.