Winx (Image: Jarrad Dooley)
She's won 12 Group 1 races and more than $12 million in prizemoney but at Randwick on Tuesday morning champion mare Winx did something that she's never done before - she won a barrier trial.
In an ominous warning to her rivals hoping to end her 17-race winning streak, the world's highest-rated turf galloper tracked the leaders for much of the 1000m trial before taking the lead inside the final furlong and putting almost a length on the placegetters, Pariah and Happy Clapper.
While he said the victory wasn't by design, trainer Chris Waller was keen to see jockey Hugh Bowman give the six-year-old a solid hit-out ahead of her return in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on August 19.
"I was happy with her winning the trial," Waller said.
"It was unusual for her but both Hughie and I thought that she was probably doing a little bit too well for this stage of her preparation and just needed to have a little bit of a stronger hit-out than normal because she's just that little bit heavier than she normally is.
"With today's trial, I think she's right on track for her first-up run in which will be over 1400m in the Warwick Stakes.
"This will just take the edge off her and we'll see her in picture perfect order in the Warwick Stakes I'd suggest."
While the trial win was unprecedented - the daughter of Street Cry had been winless in 15 official trials prior to Tuesday - Waller hosed down any speculation that Winx has returned in better condition than her previous campaigns.
The trainer said he was focussed on ensuring the mare returned to the same level that has seen her destroy her rivals in the past two editions of the Cox Plate and record an international rating of 132 in 2016 - inferior only to Group 1 dirt stars Arrogate and California Chrome.
"Don't read too much into that, raceday is more important as you've seen throughout her career," he said.
"She's not going any better than she has in previous preparations but she's certainly not going any worse.
"She's rated the world's best horse on grass right now and you can't really expect a horse to get any better than that so it's all about maintenance and making sure that she gets through to not only her first target, but her second and third-up runs and most importantly, the grand finals as well."
And while an historic third Cox Plate at The Valley on October 28 is the main aim for Winx this preparation, Waller left the door open for the mare to make her Flemington debut in the G1 Emirates Stakes (2000m) on the final day of Flemington's Melbourne Cup Carnival.
"Everything is possible but we just want to make sure we get her through to the Cox Plate," he said.
"I've simply said that if we can space her races it will give her longevity so don't expect her to be going around every two weeks this preparation.
"I'd like to give her a four-week gap between one of the runs and if we can do that it could get her out to the Emirates Stakes on the last day of the Flemington Carnival."
Nominations for the Cox Plate are set to be announced by Racing Victoria and the Moonee Valley Racing Club on Tuesday afternoon.