Hugh Bowman rides Winx to her third Cox Plate win in a narrow victory over Humidor (Image: Racing Photos)
They packed the house to see Winx race into history but the crowd got so much more than they’d paid and bargained for when the champion mare was forced to reach into previously untapped reserves to run a track record and hold off brave challenger Humidor to take the Cox Plate.
The crowd of 32,617 – the biggest Cox Plate crowd in 15 years - went to see Winx equal Kingston Town’s three plates and to stretch her winning run to 22. And so she did. But they saw so much more than an elite athlete proving her superiority once again.
They saw a cautious Hugh Bowman ensure bad luck would not beat her by covering more ground than her rivals. They saw Humidor have the cheek to peel off her back on the home turn to attempt to do the seemingly impossible – run down Winx.
WATCH: Winx win her third Cox Plate
They saw a mare, who should have been weighed down by history and expectation in her moment of extreme vulnerability, find that bit that Winx has never been called upon to find before.
All in all, they saw a great race and befitting of one that will be replayed over and over again into the future.
In winning the 2017 Cox Plate, Winx managed to:
- Beat her own track record by .04s when she recorded 2.02.94s
- Pass Makybe Diva’s stakes earnings record of $14.52 million
- Draw level with Kingston Town’s record of three Cox Plate wins
- Draw level with Black Caviar’s record of 15 group 1 wins
- Record her 22nd victory in a row
That history would be rewritten by Winx was hardly a surprise but not in such a fashion. Winx started at $1.18 and was expected to put the race away by the home turn just as she did in 2015 and with such devastating effect over the luckless Hartnell last year.
But when Winx turned for home in the 2017 Cox Plate, right on her back – as they had been throughout the race – was Blake Shinn and Humidor. Shinn was feeling like he was invincible after winning four earlier races and his horse was identified as one of a handful that could possibly test the mare given the right circumstances.
Shinn found them. Winx had covered ground and been flushed out early. He was in her slipstream. The rest were beaten and it was down to the last two. He had momentum as he ran up to her. The race was in the balance with 150 metres to go and somewhere in the crowd was her trainer Chris Waller.
He could see what was happening and could see his mare was vulnerable to a strong finisher.
‘’A whole host of things went through my mind towards the end,’’ Waller said later.
‘’Will she, won’t she? Where’s the finishing line? How’s the other horse going? Who is the other horse? But she got there, and that’s all that matters.
‘’There were obviously moments of concern down the straight, but she’s Winx and she finds a way to win like all champions do. She’s unbeaten for almost three years now, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go to bed at night thinking of her getting beaten.’’
Waller might not have to think of such an occurrence for a while. He said it was his gut-feeling that Winx’s chances of running in the Emirates Stakes on final day at Flemington were at about 40 per cent.
‘’We’ll make a decision next week whether she has another run at Flemington or whether she goes for a spell,’’ Waller said. ‘’It doesn’t matter to her and us whether the Mackinnon (Emirates) is worth a thousand dollars or a million, we’ll do what’s best for her as we always do.
‘’She’ll be well looked after, that I do know.’’
Winx has had five runs this campaign and that is as much as Waller has asked of her during her career. For the first time in Melbourne at least, you could see Winx had endured a tough run. She actually looked a little tired, a little flattened by the experience.
Waller may have been generous with his 40 percent.
Waller was helpless as he watched but the man who was behind the controls, Hugh Bowman, knew Winx was in for a fight. History was riding with him but Bowman made sure the job got done.
‘’I was born the year Kingston Town won his first Cox Plate and to think she’s emulated the great… trying to compare one horse to another, they’re all different animals at the end of the day.
‘’But we are in the presence of greatness. She’ll be recognised as one of the greatest horses to grace the Australian turf.
‘’I’ve had an amazing career. Winx delivered me my first major group 1 race three years ago and she’s now delivered me my only other two. She’s the type of horse you dream of, everybody dreams of, and to be a part of it.
‘’As a racing lover, as an animal lover, I get great satisfaction watching any good horse, or exceptional horse and this thoroughbred has brought so much joy to my life, my family’s life and I know everybody is very proud of what we’ve achieved together.’’
The vanquished still have plenty to achieve this spring in what could be a Winx-less Flemington.
Humidor now progresses to the Melbourne Cup, the third-placegetter Folkswood the Emirates and the fourth-placed Royal Symphony goes back to his own age in the Victoria Derby.
Click here to learn more about the limited edition Winx Cox Plate memorabilia on sale now