The equal highest Timeform rated thoroughbred in the world (Turf) for 2016 Winx commenced her 2017 campaign in dynamic easily winning the Group Two Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Monday.
Winx who finished the 2016 calendar year with a Timeform rating of 133, easily the world’s highest Timeform rated mare for the year, had not been seen since she destroyed the Group One Cox Plate field for the second year running at Moonee Valley last October.
Under Hugh Bowman who has ridden the mare 14 times for 13 wins, Winx was slow to leave the stalls however it proved no disadvantage as the faster than expected early pace enabled Bowman to settle Winx around midfield early.
Approaching and rounding the home turn Bowman has extricated Winx to a position three to four horses off the fence and into clear air right behind the early pacemakers.
Soon after balancing up, Winx had assumed total command of the race and although Hartnell tried hard he was no match for the wonder mare finishing almost three lengths astern.
It was the fifth time the pair had met and while Hartnell is yet to beat her, this was the closest he has managed in those five matchups – a sign he has also returned to racing in top form and confirming the new peak he reached last campaign is again within reach.
After considering the Timeform ratings profiles of the field going into the race, the historical race standards for the Apollo Stakes, five year winning average and the Timefigure returned, Winx ran to a Timeform rating of 128+ - the best ever first up Timeform rating for her.
At that level Winx is the highest Timeform rated winner of the Apollo Stakes in the last 30 years eclipsing the 127 mark reached by both Naturalism in 1993 and the mighty Lonhro in 2003, Juggler (126 - 1997) and Sunline (125 - 2001).
Winx and Hugh Bowman stride to the line in the early evening sun at Randwick on Monday, picture Stevehart.com.au
Last campaign when resuming Winx ran to a Timeform rating of 126 winning the Group Two Warwick Stakes then closed out her campaign on 133 in the Cox Plate.
In her previous Autumn preparation, she also won the Apollo Stakes when resuming running to a Timeform rating of 116+ but ended that campaign on 128 after taking the Doncaster Handicap.
Trainer Chris Waller said prior to Monday’s race that Winx had retuned “better than ever” and judging by the manner of her victory and the Timeform rating returned it is hard to disagree with his assessment.
As is customary with Winx, Monday’s win saw her feature well against history – it saw Winx stretch her unbeaten run to 14 thereby equalling the deeds of the immortal Phar Lap.
If successful in her next run - the Chipping Norton Stakes, Winx will equal the unbeaten runs of two other great Australian thoroughbreds – Bernborough and Carbine but still 10 short of the unbeaten Black Caviar.
Winx also became just the third horse in Apollo Stakes history (first run in 1974) to win the race back to back, equalling the deeds of Juggler (1996/7) and Sunline (2000/01).
Winx’s win also made Hugh Bowman the most successful jockey ever in the Apollo Stakes with five victories – one more than “The Enforcer” Mick Dittman and gave trainer Chris Waller his third win in the race still four short of the record held by Gai Waterhouse with seven wins.