WINX with trainer & strappers
Sydney – The final goodbyes will be private, but yesterday morning Winx was joined by trainer Chris Waller and the two people who for many years have spent the most time with her as Australia’s iconic mare made what is likely to be her final public appearance as the member of a racing stable.
About 17 hours after she brought an exceptional sporting career to a close with her 33rd consecutive victory in the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick racecourse, Winx posed for television cameras at her home at Rosehill Gardens.
Her celebrity status was evident again in the depth of coverage devoted to her swansong success in the country’s newspapers, with the mass-selling Sunday Telegraph carrying a special 32-page tribute pull-out.
“It’s a huge relief, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Waller. “Saturday was something very special. It will be remembered forever. Her fans really got behind her, not just in Australia, but around the world.”
It special, with a special moment. Winx left the stage in style, bidding goodbye with a last virtuoso performance.
There are questions that can never be answered, such as where Winx ranks in the all-time pantheon of great horses. What can be said is when she crossed the finishing line Winx put the seal on a uniquely glorious career.
Winx jumped from box nine, a wide berth, and was four horses off the fence turning for home. Once in sight of the winning line, she knuckled down in characteristically determined fashion, coming clear of Japanese challenger Kluger to rapturous applause and cheers. Old foes Hartnell and Happy Clapper took third and fourth.
Kluger’s world-class rider Tommy Berry commented: “I’ve got no words really. You just don’t have a horse sprint like mine did then and get beat.”
In all the adulation, Waller believes one factor deserves emphasis: “Longevity has been the key. It’s pretty hard to keep an athlete at the top for so long. It can only be done with one who is superior to the rest.
“I would say she is 10% better than her opposition. She did it on wet tracks, firm tracks, over short distances and long distances. On her off days and on her best days she is the same.”
Strappers Umut Odemislioglu and Candice Persijn have had been there on those days. They have been Winx’s personal assistants and were again on a morning when Persijn spoke in awe about the amazing scenes played out at Randwick.
“I don’t think I’ve cried so much in my whole life – I was just glad I was wearing sunglasses,” she said. “She inspires so many people, she isn’t just a horse. But when she’s at home she is just Winx. She wants no nonsense and no fuss. She’s so easy.
“It doesn’t feel like she’s done. It’s probably only going to be when she doesn’t return to the stables that it will hit us.”
They will soak up their last remaining days with Winx, who behaved like a horse well aware of her own superstar standing. “She knows she’s good,” said Persijn as the seven-year-old superstar flirted with the cameras.
Waller believes Winx will be an excellent mother.
“Seeing that baby coming out in the spring will be very special,” he said. “It’s opening up another chapter. We’re looking forward to it – although I’m sure the day that young colt or filly walks into the barn, I’ll say: ‘Oh no, not again!’”
Any day now Winx will leave that barn. “She’ll leave us towards the end of the week, once we’ve had our chance to say goodbye,” said an emotional Waller, struggling to get the words out. – www.racingpost.com