Hugh Bowman, the world’s best jockey, has declared that Winx, the world’s best horse, could win the $13 million the Everest, the richest turf race in the world, later this year.
The wonder mare and champion jockey will be reunited in this Saturday’s George Ryder Stakes (1500 metres) at Rosehill after Bowman was earlier this week cleared to ride after suffering concussion in a fall at Randwick on March 10.
But, as always when it comes to this once-in-a-generation horse, there is one eye firmly fixed on the future.
After a likely run in the Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot in June, a decision will be made on whether she has a tilt at a record fourth Cox Plate or the second running of The Everest, which has seen its prizemoney increased to $13 million with $6 million going to the winner.
“I think she’d win the Everest,” Bowman said. “Absolutely. I don’t look too far ahead. I’ve been around long enough to know that. But she’s an exception to the rule.
“It’s one thing at a time, but I’d imagine she’d run this weekend and then the Queen Elizabeth Stakes [on April 14 at Randwick] and then a decision will be made on Royal Ascot. If she doesn’t go overseas, she’s likely to be prepared for a fourth Cox Plate.”
If she does head to Royal Ascot, the likelihood of her coming back to Sydney for a quick freshen-up before chasing down The Everest becomes more likely.
Bowman says the 1200m distance wouldn't be a concern for the six-year-old.
“Look, it's not a trip, it’s not her distance – but her sectional times suggests she could do it,” he said.
Bowman is referring to the special barrier trial over 1200 metres held specifically for Winx between races at Randwick last month when he was serving a suspension. On that day, the mare clocked 1 minute 10.4 seconds for the 1200m, running the last 600m in 33.5 seconds.
It barely surprises. She has shown great versatility during her career, winning over 1100m on debut and up to 2200m in the Queensland Oaks.
Trainer Chris Waller and owners Debbie Kepitis, Peter Tighe and Richard Treweeke have been prudent with every step of Winx’s career and won’t rush into any decision about her future.
But one stumbling block is out of the way: Chris Waller Racing already owns one of the 12 allocated slots worth $600,000 each to compete in The Everest, which was won by Redzel last year.
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys could sell ice to Eskimos and admits he’s been pushing hard for Winx to run in The Everest at Randwick on October 13.
“I’ve given Chris Waller a headache over it,” V’landys said. “The day she trialed at Randwick over 1200m, her sectionals were extraordinary. A champion’s a champion, she could do and win whatever she likes. She’s that good.
“I said to Chris, ‘If you run her in The Everest we will sell seats on the roof because it will just pack the place’. The owners of Winx have a slot with Chris, so there are no excuses there.”
Of course, prizemoney stopped being a motivating factor for the owners some time ago. Winx, who is gunning for her 24th consecutive win, has amassed just under $16 million in prizemoney.
V’landys believes The Everest will become more than just a money race very soon.
“In my view – and I know people think I am mad – it will be one of the biggest races in the world in five years,” he said. “It’s captured the imagination of everyone in racing. The young people’s engagement is what has got me. If Winx goes into it, it will make the race.”
Bowman was on Monday cleared to ride after a two-week layoff because of a heavy concussion suffered when he was thrown from Performer, the two-year-old he will ride in Saturday’s Golden Slipper after riding Winx earlier in the day.
He rode Winx in a barrier trial at Rosehill on Tuesday and says she’s going better than last year when she won her third Cox Plate.
“She’s better mentally; physically she’s very similar,” he said. “She might be a little thicker through the shoulders, but you’re talking a five per cent difference physically. Mentally, though, she’s just happier. She was very on edge last time in at this stage of the preparation.”
Winx will face five opponents in the George Ryder: Kementari, Happy Clapper, Clearly Innocent, Invincible Gem and Crack Me Up.
Article courtesy of Fairfax Digital and The Brisbane Times