Tag Archives: Winx

Winx The Great – But Not The Greatest

 

“Beep, Beep, Beep……” The alarm rings at half past five in the morning – on a Saturday. Autsch!

35 minutes to go until the gates crash open on the other side of the globe: Winx, the Australian wonder mare, is about to bring the house down at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse.

It’s her final final race – number 43, in a career that’s spanning over six years. Quite an astonishing longevity for a horse competing at the highest level of the sport. Even more astonishing: Winx hasn’t lost in 32 consecutive starts.

She’s not letting this one slip – consecutive victory #33. From the widest draw she settles in sixth position, travelling beautifully. The pace isn’t particularly hot, but jockey Hugh Bowman has nothing to fear: three furlongs out he allows Winx to stride on, she’s got to turn four wide, no bother. Once entering the home straight, the star mare hits top gear and sprints home in emphatic fashion.

Impressive: a 25th Group 1 success – no horse won more. Ever. Same goes for the astronomical amount of price money she’s amassed throughout her stellar career.

It was worth getting up early for this wonderful moment of racing history. Winx, now retired, will live on in our memories as one of the great champions of our sport. What she has done, again and again, over such a long period of time – given we know how fragile these creatures are – is simply astonishing.

The Debate: “The Greatest We’ve Ever Seen” ?

Racing fans across the globe arguing for some time about the true merit of her victories. Whether Winx is one of the best – if not even the best ever – or whether she’s merely avoided real competition hence she can’t be “a great”…. the debate is pretty black and white in many quarters.

True, Winx took on the same horses on many occasions. She’s beaten poor Hartnell eight times and Happy Clapper eleven times. We know the competition beyond sprinting trips isn’t quite as deep in Australia as it is in Europe.

Nonetheless, the saying goes: you can only beat what’s put in front of you. And the way she’s done it, backing her performances up on the clock as well, has been pretty sensational.

One number stands out for me: 76 – it’s the number of Group 1 winners she has beaten in her races. It’s hard to argue Winx is not top-class. She is! And with supreme class come expectations that sometimes stay unfulfilled. For example the hope to see her travelling over to Royal Ascot.

I’ve no problem with that. Personally for me it doesn’t diminish her achievements. Seeing them in the right context is vital, though. Because, as mentioned before, the debate tends to be black and white, while the reality rarely is.

In the 2018 Timeform Global Rankings Winx (133) took second place behind Cracksman (134) – there is little evidence to support the notion she’d been worse than that – but also not much better than that – this year. This isn’t a knock on the mighty mare. Winx is a true star of our sport. So is Arc winner Cracksman – greats of their time. But neither is in the category of “the greatest of all time”.

Seeing it this way is a fair and balanced reflection on the achievements of this brilliant mare, in my eyes. It’s what she is – or was; a brilliant, classy and incredibly sound horse, competing at the top level over a variety of trips; outstanding in her part of the world, reigning over any rival who tried to take the crown off her.

Oh so many wonderful moments for the sport of horse racing. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The special bond between horse and human, showing in the affection of the general public for the mare, none more so today at Royal Randwick, where it was – of course – a sellout crowd, and even outside of the racecourse hundreds lined up on the streets lurking through the fences, only to get a glimpse of Winx.

Let’s not argue about good or bad, black and white, best or worst – let’s celebrate the final chapter of a great career of a great mare – Winx, you’re a champion.

…….

Photo Credit: 7HorseRacing

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The World’s Best Racehorse in 2017

The news broke on Tuesday afternoon and Twitter went wild: Arrogate was crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2017.

Australia’s wonder mare Winx finished second, Cracksman and Gun Runner joint third. And Enable? The Arc, dual Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and QE II champion?

Fifth. Let that sink in….

“Are you kidding???” my initial reaction. A couple of angry tweets later I remind myself how these self-proclaimed world thoroughbred rankings are compiled.

Arrogate landed the Dubai World Cup in most scintillating fashion, flopped on three subsequent occasions afterwards – however, this doesn’t matter for the rankings. One might wonder why? It all makes sense if you know what BHA handicapper Phil Smith explains:

“We look at the best sustainable performance over the whole year. We ask if the form of a race can be supported and substantiated by the prior and subsequent performances of the winner and/or placed horses.
With Arrogate, his Pegasus World Cup win nearly replicates his Dubai World Cup performance. The form of the placed horses in both races is also rock-solid. What we are talking about here is a classification of performances from January 1 to December 31.”

Long story short: the World’s Best Racehorse is awarded to the horse that ran the single best race in the given year. It probably would be more appropriately titled “World’s Best Racing Performance in 2017”.

Plenty of wise racing folks are of the opinion Arrogate’s stunning Dubai win was, indeed, the single biggest performance of the entire year. So there must be some merit to it – who am I to argue?

Because his performance in the DWC was deemed so outstanding, it didn’t matter what else he did in 2017. In the eyes of the panel (that came up with the rankings), that day Arrogate repeated performances from the past, hence the performance was deemed sustainable.

Well, racing and judging performances is subjective – the world thoroughbred rankings are highly subjective as well. An esteemed panel comes up with these ratings – still it is a subjective way of assessing performances. There is no other way in racing, though.

Personally, I do not agree with the rankings. Plenty others do. And that is okay, too. I believe, nonetheless, to crown the best horse of any year based on one single performance – in this case achieved in March – while not taking into account the rest of the year and therefore subsequent performances, is flawed.

I find it hard to accept that a filly like Enable, who won five top class Group 1 races in 2017, doesn’t even get into the top 3 of these rankings. Mind you, The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was named the best individual race of 2017… but the horse who won it, who clearly repeated her big performances time after time, finishes in the so called World’s Best Racehorse rankings only in 5th place.

It’s not right. In my eyes, at least. I think, if you want to ensure that this award is a serious reflection of achievement in a given year, you have to be able to reflect and look back on the entire year in order to decide what performance(s) reflect the very best of this given year. That has its own flaws, mind. Still, it would be a fairer way, in my opinion.

That doesn’t take anything away from Arrogate. He was – deservedly so – crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2016. He clearly was not the best in 2017, though. His DWC victory remains a sensational piece of achievement, nonetheless.

So does Enable’s Arc win, beating eleven other Group 1 winners that day. Doing at at the end of a long season. Doing it after landing four other big Goup 1 prizes during her 2017 campaign.

So is a third consecutive Cox Plate win by Winx. Who did it after winning nine other graded races in 2017, including 5 more Group 1’s.

That’s class. Class that has been repeated over and over again. An exceptionally high level of performance that is sustainable. As 2017 proved.

Saturday Selections – 19th August 2017

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Great Sound made my Friday. Superb win, different class in his race. Shame that Dreaming Time faded badly in the home straight when seemingly travelling well for most of the time. Owen The Law was a non-runner.

Big weekend ahead – I may shove my ass down to the Curragh on Sunday in fact – however Saturday looms large with a tremendous amount of great racing. Winx already kicked us off with a special performance in the Warwick Stakes this morning over in Australia, Arrogate will follow tonight, whereas there are some compelling Stakes races on offer in the UK and Ireland.

However I set my sights, as so often, on the slightly lower end of the class scale. Here we go!

…..

3.15 Ripon: Class 2 Handicap, 6f

Big and wide open sprint handicap, I feel Right Touch with Franny Norton on board is a massive price to give a bit of a chance here. He is down to his last winning mark, and while ideally the ground would be a bit softer, he does run well on genuine good ground.

He’s been not setting the world alight this season yet, mostly campaigned over 7f. The drop down to 6f should suit him, though, and given he is a also a course winner means at 25’s it is worth a nibble.

Selection:
10pts win – Right Touch @ 25/1 Bet365

……

4.05 Newbury: Maiden Stakes , 1m 4f

Those with experience haven’t achieved an awful lot I feel, so to give a newcomer a chance isn’t that big a deal. John Gosden’s Gns750k yearling with the slightly unflattering name Erdogan, is a super interesting newcomer, one we have waited a long time to see.

A son of Frankel out of the superb Dar Re Mi who already has produced noticeable stakes performers no less so with So Mi Dar, Erdogan boosts the most magnificent pedigree.

Whether he is ready to go we will find out today, but given we’re midway through the season with some big targets on the horizon, one would think he has to run well today in order to have a chance to compete in the big stake races in autumn.

Selection:
10pts win – Erdogan @ 7/2 Coral

……

4.40 Newbury: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Black Bolt bolted up on his second career start in a Kempton maiden back in December. Not seen since fitness is taken on trust.

However he has the pedigree to do well as a three year old and should enjoy the step up in trip to 10f. His sire Cape Cross has a significant record in softish conditions at this track too.

An opening mark of 82 in a race where the main rivals are seemingly older horses could be lenient.

Selection:
10pts win – Black Bolt @ 13/2 William Hill

……

4.45 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Bidding for a hat-trick, Barwell can easily find still a bit more and is very dangerous here, however I’m firmly in the Alfarris camp. The Shamardal son is still lightly raced and has improved with each run after landing an All-Weather maiden earlier this year.

His runner-up performance at Chelmsford in May rates strongly with the form book and his subsequent run at Ascot in a hot class 2 Handicap is equally a strong performance. He was carried to the left by the eventual winner over 2f out but more importantly looked disorganized which meant he could not finish closer than 4th.

Head-gear applied for the first time should help in this case, he also drops back to suitable 10f and quite a bit in class. He could have too much on his plate for this lot I feel.

Selection:
10pts win – Alfarris @ 10/3 Bet365

……

5.35 Ripon: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Chocolate Box looks ready to strike and may regret betting against him, however Sole Mission is equally a sporting chance, however a better price and has already proven he can get his head in front.

So he did at Carlisle on his penultimate start in excellent fashion. Things did not quite work out the next time however we can probably draw a line through that run and give him another chance.

He has been improving this season which one would expect from a very late May foal. Being a hold up horse is something i usually feel not totally comfortable betting on, however his sire Sea The Stars boots a tremendous record at this track.

Selection: 
10pts win – Sole Mission @ 7/1 Bet365