Farewell to Racing’s Global Ambassador: Thoughts On Winx’s Career

Jockey Hugh Bowman steers Winx to her 33rd consecutive win in the April 13 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick in Australia. (Eclipse Sportswire)

One thousand twenty-nine days. That’s how many days Winx’s winning streak survived – starting the day Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the Preakness Stakes and fittingly ending the day “Pharoah’s” first runner, Monarch of Egypt, won his debut.

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 13 at Royal Randwick Race Course was run like so many of Winx’s other races in front of the sold-out crowd at the track. Hugh Bowman let the mare settle in her customary spot near the back of the field in the 1 ¼ mile race with the pair running with supreme confidence. Just like normal, Bowman let her go with a little over two furlongs remaining, but unlike normal she took the lead early in the straight.

From there it was clear the mare was going to win her 33rd straight race and become the richest racehorse in racing history while also winning a world record 25th Group 1 race. Fittingly, she also gave her trainer Chris Waller his 100th career Group 1 victory (a total that quickly became 101 when he won the next race on the card that day). But for those around the world who were tuning in, the win wasn’t the culmination of an amazing résumé. It was the culmination of a career that has both brought the sport together and given it new fans.

A quick search on social media brings up thousands of people telling stories about how Winx touched their lives. Getting into a taxi in Australia and telling the driver you’re headed to a destination that has to do with horse racing also brings up Winx’s name.

But even more impressive is that Winx’s impact isn’t just an Australian phenomenon.

After living in Australia for nine months, I headed to England for a few days, and people who knew I had been in Australia asked about Winx and wanted to talk about her. The same happened when I returned to the United States – even with my horse-oriented friends who don’t follow the actual sport itself. Though I left Australia exactly a year ago, I was still getting Facebook and Twitter messages from people around the world both in and out of racing, even after her final victory.

I was lucky enough to see Winx multiple times when I lived in Australia. Seeing her run – even in her barrier trials (basically group workouts for horses) – helped me through some hard times. Those times left me with two Winx memories I will never forget.

The first was standing at the final furlong marker during a trial and watching her click into another gear without looking like she had to put any effort into it. I have seen some of the best horses in the world race in person and have never seen a horse change speed that effortlessly.

The second was a more personal memory. At Royal Randwick, down by the saddling stalls there was a lawn next to the normal path the horses used to get to the paddock. For a while, they used this lawn to get access while construction blocked their normal path. This turned out to be a perfect place to get up close and personal with the horses and get some great shots. I was extremely lucky one Saturday when Winx stopped right in front of me and refused to move for at least 30 seconds, even with her grooms Umet Odemislioglu and Candice Persijn urging her on. It was a moment I needed – and as odd as this will sound, it’s a moment I believe she knew I needed.

Winx fans at Royal Randwick. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Really good horses come and go, and we’re in an era where we have been spoiled with greats. But even when watching horses such as American Pharoah during and after the Triple Crown and Wise Dan when winning at his home track of Keeneland, I’ve never felt the atmosphere I’ve felt at a Winx race.

While I was only watching her final start on my computer from across the world this time around, it was easy to see that the atmosphere at the track – and even on social media around the world in the middle of the night for a large contingent of fans – was even bigger than normal.

Chris Waller put the moment into words perfectly when talking to Racing New South Wales the morning after her victory.

“Winx has been a big part of my career and it was all about Winx yesterday and for the right reasons,” he said. "It was pretty obvious it was a big sporting moment and one that generations will keep in their mind for a long time and pass on to children and grandchildren.”

Waller said the wonder mare will likely leave his stable by the end of the week to prepare for her new career as a broodmare, one that will start when breeding sheds in Australia open in September. But it is obvious from the reactions across social media and the racing industry days after her victory that even as Winx leaves racing to start her second career, she’ll still be in the minds of racing fans around the world for years and even decades to come.

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