Happy 21st! Winx's dominant Turnbull Stakes victory

Jockey Hugh Bowman on Winx wins race 5, the Seppelt Turnbull Stakes, on Seppelt Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Photo: AAP Image/Mal Fairclough

Jockey Hugh Bowman on Winx wins race 5, the Seppelt Turnbull Stakes, on Seppelt Turnbull Stakes Day at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Photo: AAP Image/Mal Fairclough

She came (to Flemington for the first time). She saw (the crowds, deep around the parade ring, craning to pay her homage).

She conquered (for the 21st time in a row, cementing her legend with an easy victory in a group 1 race at her first visit to Australian racing headquarters).

It was just about the perfect afternoon for Winx, her trainer Chris Waller, jockey Hugh Bowman and major part-owner Debbie Kapetis as they watched their champion glide to an effortless victory in the Turnbull Stakes over 2000 metres.

The Victorian racing audience is no stranger to champions, having watched and nurtured the icon that was Black Caviar as Peter Moody's great sprinter won the bulk of her 25 races in that extraordinary unbeaten career in the state.

Melbourne racegoers also saw the brilliance of superstar staying mare Makybe Diva as she galloped to three Melbourne Cups, taking an Australian Cup and a Cox Plate along the way.

And the reception they gave the current queen of the turf as she made her Flemington debut a day to remember was as generous and knowledgeable as any given those wonderful equine heroines of the past. More than 20,000 turned up to see the star of the show, nearly double the 11,294 who attended the same meeting last year.

As Bowman let out an inch or two of rein and the daughter of Street Cry picked up the bit and lengthened her stride, the crowd produced an audible sigh before the sound of clapping, fully 600 metres out, began to echo through the stands.

This was majesty, grace, power and perfection in one elegant package as Winx, hardly breaking sweat, eased first one length, then two, three and further clear of the chasing pack. In the end the winning margin was 6.5 lengths in a time of 2:02.07.

No one doubted that had Bowman pushed her out she might have won by nearly double the distance, and there were equally few doubts that had he wished her to run time she might have given Makybe Diva's course record of 1:58.73 a nudge.

And while there was plenty made of the fact that the field had cut up with only six opponents going to post – including the $301 and $201 chances Magicool and Skyfire – it wasn't as if she was beating up on a field of hacks.

Runner up, at a respectful distance, was the Hayes/Dabernig trained Ventura Storm, an English import who had been good enough to run second in the 2900-metre English St Leger last year, the most important staying classic for three-year-olds in Europe.

Third, and never able to get in a blow, was the Darren Weir-trained Humidor, who had been a slashing winner of the group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes last time out and went into this race as one of the strongest fancied in the markets for the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.

But Winx put them to the sword with the minimum of fuss, suggesting that a third Cox Plate is a mere formality barring illness, accident or appalling luck in running.

Afterwards it was a relieved Waller who simply said "she is a freak", although the Sydney-based New Zealander admitted to feeling the pressure during her build up to her first Flemington test.

"I do feel butterflies ...I thought I was under pressure 12 months ago, but it seems to just edge a little bit more all the time," said Waller.

"She's a brilliant horse, whatever you ask her to do she does. She makes us all look great. It's just great that the public embrace her, not just here at Flemington but back home. She never disappoints.

Photo: AAP Image/Mal Fairclough

Photo: AAP Image/Mal Fairclough

"I guess there's so much support, there is always one per cent of doubters, but I would say she's proved most of them wrong."

Bowman, who has forged the partnership of a racing lifetime with the mare, looked the coolest, calmest man on the track as he simply stalked the leaders before coming wide to pick his moment to challenge.

Afterwards he declared that the ease of her win was no surprise – and suggested that although she has been trained all her career in Sydney, Winx might even be better racing in the Melbourne direction.

"It was pretty special, no surprise, believe it or not," he said. 

"I am very pleased with how she has settled in down here. I know she did work well the other day, but she always does. What's impressed my is how settled she is down here. I have said it all week. 

"She was back to herself today, she was very unenthusiastic  last start, for some reason or other, maybe she just had a bit of a day where she didn't want to do it, but she still did it in style."

Sydney Morning Herald

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