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'Glad to see the back of her': rivals declare Winx 'almost unbeatable'

Hugh Bowman's rival jockeys seem resigned to be riding for second against Winx and James McDonald admits he "will be glad to see the back of her" but that won't stop them soaking up the pre-race excitement before attempting racing's version of mission impossible.

Winx will face eight rivals in Saturday's Queen Elizabeth Stakes as she chases 33 straight wins in her career swansong and while she has drawn widest of nine, that isn't necessarily a negative for a mare who will race back in the field before before unwinding with her trademark finish.

It's one thing to know that Bowman can unleash that electric acceleration with a flick of his wrist but, like a Michael Jordan fadeaway or Mike Tyson uppercut, it's one thing to know it's coming, and another matter entirely when it comes to stopping it.

Happy Clapper's jockey Blake Shinn has finished second to Winx six times, more than any other jockey, but he has also been aboard a horse that has beaten her four times (in what seems a lifetime ago) and produced some of the best, albeit unsuccesful, tactical rides against the champ.

Two starts ago in the Chipping Norton Stakes Shinn was brilliant aboard Happy Clapper — attempting to take to Winx out of her comfort zone by stealing a break before the turn — but with Saturday's 2000 metres a stretch stamina-wise for his horse, don't expect the same tactics when he faces Winx for the 11th time.

"It's a completely different race set-up, last time was 1600 with no obvious leader in the race and a chance to take control," Shinn said. "Of course I will be out there trying and I will devise a plan on how I am going to win, but am I going to ride him differently."

Shinn stalked Winx in the run aboard Humidor when second in the 2017 Cox Plate and even though he got within a half-length of the winner, "I knew Hugh hadn't asked her for full effort and when I ranged up, she just responded as much as I challenged.

"We will be out there trying to win but realistically we are all running for second," Shinn said. "She is in a league with Phar Lap and some of the all-time greats. It's an honour to be competing against her and be part of her farewell. The curtain is closing on probably the greatest we will ever see but I'll be giving it all I can."

James McDonald rides He's Eminent, the likely leader after a strong first-up second in the group 1 Ranvet, and the Kiwi jockey has five runner-up finishes of his own behind Winx (and also one win, the third of her winning streak when filling in for the suspended Bowman in the 2015 Theo Marks Stakes).

"She’s been good for the sport, but I’ve finished second to her many, many times and it will good to see the back of her," McDonald said.

You know a horse is special when jockeys not riding in the race are compelled to come out of the jockeys' room, where they would normally watch races on a monitor, and instead watch from trackside.

Both McDonald and Tommy Berry, who will ride Japanese horse Kluger, both admit to being "in awe" when watching Winx in the pre-race parade ring but Berry said that once the gates open he will "try to ride the race like she's not in it".

"Hughie doesn't care about us and we can't worry about him," Berry said. "I'm tipping we'll settle in front of him and for my bloke I wouldn't want it to be a sit-sprint so I'd pour the pressure on earlier than I would normally.

''There's a good chance she's going to be there at the 300 metre mark pouring the pressure onto us. Hughie doesn't lave his run too late very often. She's obviously going to be awfully hard to beat, she is almost unbeatable.

"I'm always in awe of her in the mounting yard walking around and going to the gates, but once you get out onto the track and walking behind the gates ... you don't forget she's in the race, but you've got your mind on the own job," he said.

"You've got the job to do for your connections. But it's not hard to be in awe of her in the mounting yard when the crowd's there. It's a pretty good feeling."

Article courtesy of Nine and The Brisbane Times

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