What did we just witness… a memory that will last a lifetime for those who were there to see it…
A bumper sell-out crowd of 32,617 turned out in glorious weather to watch wonder horse Winx win a record equalling third W.S. Cox Plate at The Valley last Saturday and it was a pinch yourself moment.
The champion mare broke her own track record and in the process equalled Kingston’s Town record of three W.S. Cox Plate wins and stamped herself as an immortal of the track.
The build-up, the anticipation, the excitement – it was all there in the lead-up to the 97th running of the race and it delivered a script no one saw coming.
Many pundits thought Winx would win running away, with time for jockey Hugh Bowman to soak up the adulation of the crowd before reaching the finishing post. But somebody forget to tell Darren Weir’s Humidor and hearts were in mouths with 100 metres to go.
Despite the best efforts of jockey Blake Shinn, who rode a staggering four winners on the card, Winx was never headed and Hugh Bowman punched the air to the roars of the crowd. Blue streamers cascaded from the grandstand façade and The Script’s ‘Hall of Fame’ played loudly across the course.
The reception the wonder mare received from The Valley’s sold-out crowd when returning back up the home straight is something that many will remember for a lifetime. For Bowman to then throw his skull cap into the crowd to one unsuspecting but extremely lucky punter, another moment to savour.
The result topped off one of the biggest days the Club has ever witnessed, with a sea of royal blue and white mixed into the crowd with the Ladbrokes red. Daryl Braithwaite was again on hand to sing his anthemic ‘The Horses’, drowned out often by his adoring fans who can’t seem to get enough of the song.
While Saturday was a day to remember, Friday night’s Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes meeting had just as much excitement and drama.
A beautiful Melbourne spring evening saw the crowds flock to The Valley, with a record for the meeting of 11,805 people turning up to kick-off the two-day Carnival.
Craig Williams had a night to remember riding a treble and was on the highly-fancied Vega Magic in the Group 1 feature. High drama ensued before the jump of the race when 2015 and cult-favourite Chautauqua and the Gai Waterhouse trained English were vetted. Unfortunately, it was ‘The Thunder from Down Under’ who was scratched to the groans of the crowd.
The drama didn’t end there. The Tony McEvoy trained Hey Doc kicked clear on the home turn to take out the race, but not without a protest from the second placed In Her Time after jockey Corey Brown claimed interference at the 1000 metre mark.
It was a huge training performance by McEvoy. Hey Doc was back in distance after a disappointing performance in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes and had galloped very well at the Breakfast with the Best on Tuesday morning. Whispers has swept the course about how well the 4YO gelding was travelling and they proved to be right.
The band ARC played out the night to a full Valley Beer Garden and many punters went home happy after a thrilling night of racing and entertainment.
In total, 44,422 patrons walked through the turnstiles across the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival and each of every one of them would have had a story to tell.
It was so much fun we think we might just do it all again next year.