Winx sparkles again but Sydney Cup drama mars day at Randwick
Winx and her jockey Hugh Bowman made it look easy when cruising to victory in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes while the mare's trainer fought a battle with his nerves.
Chris Waller admits the responsibility of caring for the world's best mare is one he doesn't want to give to anyone else but it takes a toll.
It all came to a head on Saturday at Randwick as the cool and calm jockey went about his business, steering the mare to her 17th consecutive win and her 12th at Group One level in the $4 million showpiece.
Waller sat watching in relative seclusion as the crowd of 26,801 cheered her home to a five and a quarter length win over Hartnell.
"It is a big relief," Waller said. "I'm a racing fan and I am as much a fan of Winx as anybody. I've been pretty nervous for a about a year now and I was nervous today.
"I know we've all done what we can do to have her fit and well but you can't actually ask her how she's feeling and one day she will get beaten."
That seems unlikely while Bowman is around to control her on the track.
"I wouldn't say it was a high-pressure race today," Bowman said.
"Everyone found their spot and even slowed it up mid-race and it was a bit of a sprint home.
"I don't think you see the best of her when it is that sort of race. She is obviously still good and she wheeled past them at the top of the straight.
"Honestly I think when she gets in a high-pressure race, when there is a lot of pace from the start like there was in last year's Cox Plate, that's when you see the best of her."
While the public has adopted Winx as their own, Bowman has a more intimate relationship with her.
"I could really feel the crowd's love for her," he said. "She's the ultimate professional. I love her."
Sydney Cup declared a no race
The joy of witnessing Winx stride towards equine immortality turned to concern for racegoers at Randwick as the Sydney Cup was called off after fears two fallen riders and a stricken horse were in further jeopardy.
Racing NSW stewards made the decision to abandon the $2 million staying feature after Almoonqith and Who Shot Thebarman collided on the turn leading out of home straight.
Almoonqith, ridden by James Doyle, managed to get back to his feet while Who Shot Thebarman continued to chase the field after unseating Blake Shinn.
Both jockeys avoided serious injury but Almoonqith was euthanised on the track.
While some jockeys in the 14-horse field realised the race had been called off, Corey Brown was unaware and thought he had won aboard Charlie Appleby-trained Godolphin runner Polarisation.
Brown disagreed with the stewards' decision, believing Shinn, Doyle and Almoonqith were in no further danger.
He said he was aware a pony rider was yelling as he rode past but thought that was to alert jockeys to Who Shot Thebarman - not about Almoonqith's predicament.
"I already knew because I heard (race caller) Darren Flindell say that one's broken down after the winning post," said Brown.
"I just carried on and kept looking up thinking if something's coming head on it's a different story."
Brown claimed jockeys would have had ample time to avoid Almoonqith while Shinn and Doyle were already out of danger.
"I've pulled up to a trot by the time I've got to Almoonqith, and I won the race."
Chief steward Marc Van Gestel justified the decision on safety grounds.
"The stewards were concerned as for the safety of two riders and that Almoonqith had the potential to get up and run back towards the field," he said.