Racing: Help from above called for

By Mike Dillon

However, it was all to no avail as Winx coasted by Hartnell at Moonee Valley.
Winx takes the second step to emulating Kingston Town’s three Cox Plates on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
Winx takes the second step to emulating Kingston Town’s three Cox Plates on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

Mere superlatives don't cut it for Winx.

So we'll leave it to James McDonald, who had the best view of one of the great Cox Plates.

"Oh, Jesus Christ," said McDonald on Hartnell as Winx sauntered past 500m out at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

Not even the Lord could have helped McDonald at that point.

That is not a direct quote from McDonald - those are the words Hugh Bowman heard as he waltzed past second favourite Hartnell on his way to victory.

Despite a fierce and freezing wind, Bowman was able to hear McDonald because 10 seconds earlier he had totally relaxed despite the huge intensity of the moment.

"As soon as I made the hindquarters of Hartnell [at the 1000m] I was confident. I just relaxed and enjoyed the moment like the rest of the crowd."

Said McDonald yesterday: "I thought I was travelling all right at the time, then I looked to my right.

Words can't describe what that feels like. She wasn't even under pressure and she flew past us. Only champions can do that."

Hugh Bowman is one of life's most relaxed individuals.He could make a sphinx look busy.

On Friday, he declared his one intention was to keep Winx relaxed and happy on the way to the start. It came as a shock to the wonderful horseman that it was he, not Winx, that was wound up.

"When the crowd cheered her when we came through the tunnel and out onto the track, I got a bit choked up."

Asked what Winx's next big mission would be an emotional Chris Waller said: "To win next year's Cox Plate."

Although he had not previously declared it, that had been Waller's intention immediately after Winx won last year's Cox Plate in record time. "It was a 365-day mission. It was a delicate assignment."

Only the great Kingston Town won three straight Cox Plates, 1980, 81, 82.

Winx is Waller's perfect vehicle for she, too, appears immune to pressure. Waller paid tribute to that on Saturday. "She has absorbed everything and kept going. She's just that sort of horse."

Speed is a necessary ingredient in a top horse, but it runs second to attitude.

Winx's eight-length margin is the greatest in the 93-year history if Cox Plates. Two greats in Dulcify and Sunline each won by seven lengths.

Waller should have even more to work with next year. On Saturday, Winx was 14kg heavier than when she won her first Cox Plate. "The extra weight is all muscle," says Waller.

This was win No 13 straight and there is already more than A$9 million in the bank.

Hartnell was brave in defeat. He looked a beaten horse when Winx breezed on by, but he clung grimly to second place, doing his Melbourne Cup hopes no harm.

Moonee Valley's decision to run a Friday night meeting on the eve of the Cox Plate was not universally applauded when introduced a few years back. What if it rained on the Friday and chopped up the track declared the nay-sayers. Well, it did rain on Friday for the first time since the change and from the first race on Saturday the inside two lanes were no-go areas.

Bowman and McDonald were aware of this long before going out for the Plate and rode accordingly, staying well away from the inside.

Without in any way wanting to dampen this astonishing victory and the emotion such occasions can unleash, a couple of the commentators on Saturday probably went a touch too far.

Said one: "I've seen all the greats win this race and this was without doubt the greatest."

Well, Kingston Town's three-in-a-row wasn't bad for a right-handed Sydney horse, who could not get on the correct leg in Melbourne, but won anyway.

And Sunline's second Cox Plate would have won any race in the world that year. In his year, Dulcify would have beaten a motorbike around Moonee Valley.

But, what the hell, in horse racing you live for such moments as Saturday's.

Road to greatness

• Winx won her second Cox Plate on Saturday in an exhilarating display.
• She will return next year in a bid to complete the hat-trick.
• Hartnell returned a satisfactory Melbourne Cup trial.

- NZ Herald

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