It is only a matter of opinion whether 2015 Cox Plate winner Winx can be labelled a champion but she is certainly a star and proved that with a determined first-up win in the Group II Optus Business Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Star mare Winx drives through to extend her winning sequence to six in taking out the Apollo Stakes (1400m). Photo: Steve Hart
A one length victory over Solicit in the $250,000 feature stretched Winx’s winning sequence to six and made it 10 career victories from only 16 starts.
Bowman rode the perfect race from gate one aboard the $1.60 favourite, settling fifth on the fence, trailing a genuine tempo set by Kerrin McEvoy aboard Solicit ($5.50).
Bowman saved ground turning for home but had work to do, gradually overhauling Solicit before forging clear inside the final 100m. Godolphin’s Hauraki ($41) wound-up late to claim third a further 2-3/4 lengths away.
For trainer Chris Waller a Group II win is par for the course, but he carries a self-imposed burden with Winx, wanting her to win for the racing public as much as for himself and connections.
“Today’s the most nervous I’ve been in recent years,” Waller said.
“There is a sense of importance about a horse almost on the cusp of (being) a superstar. In our eyes she already is.
“I feel it’s important for racing to keep winning. I hope everyone is with us.
“With elite horses like this every race is important now.
“I’d say there will be a Group I next start for her and hopefully she can get that as well.”
Waller has the Group I Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick in a fortnight as the most likely second-up target.
“That was perfect for her,” Waller said. “The good draw. She’s had a good blow and a good sweat.
“She’ll improve a lot. She’s not a big, masculine, gross horse so she’ll tighten-up a little bit more.”
Bowman also noted the sense of occasion and the wave of support which Winx generates.
“I started to feel as though we were her for an occasion when everyone started lining the fence to take a photo of her on the way out,” Bowman said.
“She’s really drawn the attention of anyone in racing and beyond.
“It’s still early on for her. She’s still in the infancy of her career.
“She put the writing on the wall in the spring and that’s a good return.”
As for the race, Bowman couldn’t have timed it any better.
“The pace was genuine and I suspected it might have been,” Bowman said. “I’ve ridden Solicit and I thought she’s fit enough to make it a bit of a test.
“In the middle stages I felt I may have been getting a little too far out of touch but I needed to do that to keep my mare comfortable.
“I wanted to make sure she was comfortable and she certainly didn’t let me down when I needed her.
“She’s only going to improve as the distances increase. She’s a special mare and it’s a privilege to be on her.”