Such is Chris Waller's faith in Winx, he may have been the only person on Saturday at Flemington - or watching on from elsewhere - not to endure that sinking feeling as the field turned for home in the Turnbull Stakes.
For the large crowd on hand and for the millions watching throughout the world, Winx was in trouble with 500 metres to run. She had a wall of horses in front of her and more to her outside and inside. Temporarily, it seemed she had nowhere to go.
Momentarily it seemed her winning run would stop at No. 27.
But as we've been accustomed to for much of the past three years, Winx can change the complexion of a race in a few strides. The gap did come and Winx went through to record one of the narrowest wins of her extraordinary streak.
On the line, the $1.10 favourite had a length margin over stablemate Youngstar ($41), with three-quarters of a length to Caulfield Cup favourite Kings Will Dream ($14) in third place.
A buzz went through the crowd for the entire Flemington straight but seemingly Waller was never worried.
"The way Hughie rode her was perfect," the trainer said. "That's how you ride a racehorse.
"Go to the apprentice school on Monday and show them that and every apprentice will turn out to be a genius if they ride like that.
"In reality, she only made up five lengths in 400 metres."
Such was the ease with which he took the running of the Turnbull, Waller was happy to look three weeks ahead to what Winx would face at The Valley when racing for a fourth Cox Plate. "It's now about maintenance," he said. "We're in safe mode now and it's a good place to be."
While there was delight once again in the Winx camp, the Mick Price stable was left licking its wounds after a horror finish to the race.
Price reported that dual Group 1 winner Grunt will be scanned to check for any injuries after finishing three lengths behind the field.
Punters reacted immediately to the performance of Grunt, easing him out to $51 for the Cox Plate while Winx firmed into $1.20.
Pre-post favourite Savvy Coup left no room for excuses when she dominated her rivals in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on Saturday. Handled impeccably by experienced jockey Chris Johnson, last season's Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner settled in a perfect position beyond midfield as pacemakers Big Mike and Saint Emilion set a breakneck speed in front.
Johnson never panicked as he eased his mount to the outer at the 700m mark before looping the field to challenge on the home turn.
Savvy Coup bolted clear and hit the winning post more than two lengths clear of a game Lizzie L'Amour with Danzdanzdance closing well to pip Scott Base for third.
An emotional Michael Pitman, who prepares the mare with son Matthew from their Riccarton base, was choking back tears as he fielded congratulations from a throng of well-wishers after the race.
"I didn't want to get ahead of myself but when she ran second the other day we were so confident," he said.
Pitman, who is battling bowel cancer after being diagnosed with the disease back in February, will now look to fulfil a promise he made weeks ago with Savvy Coup destined to take on wonder mare Winx in the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 27. "I might not get there myself but the horse will," he said.
"I'm having an operation but I've said all the way along if we win the Livamol we're going to the Cox Plate."
Johnson summed up the mare's run after the race. "I think the 2000m helped as she got her chance to get going," he said. "I went early on her, probably a bit too early, but she kept up a strong run to the line."
The win brought up career victory number six from just 16 starts for Savvy Coup who is raced by a group that includes South Island identity Ray Coupland along with NZ Bloodstock's Jim Bruford. The win was also a triumph for her breeder, Waikato Stud, who had earlier produced Gr. 2 Sacred Falls Hawke's Bay Guineas (1400m) winner, Madison County.
- Racing.com, NZ Racing Desk