Hugh Bowman quides Winx to victory in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on October 6 last year. Picture:  Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Hugh Bowman quides Winx to victory in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington on October 6 last year. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Winx worthy of ultimate accolade

WINX can crown her celebrated career and conquer racing's final frontier by becoming the first Australian-trained racehorse to be named undisputed world champion.

Sydney's super mare is among the finalists for the 2018 Longines World's Best Racehorse title, the sport's most coveted and prestigious award.

It will be announced in London early on Thursday morning (AEDT).

England's supremely talented Cracksman, France's wonder mare Enable and America's champ Gun Runner are Winx's main rivals for the award, which is usually dominated by northern hemisphere-trained horses.

It is very difficult for Australian racehorses to be recognised on the world stage, particularly if they haven't competed overseas.

Black Caviar needed to win at England's Royal Ascot before she was named joint winner of the 2013 Longines World's Best Racehorse title with French mare Treve.

The fact Winx has never raced outside of Australia has been noted by some English commentators in the build-up to the London award ceremony this week.

Even the champion mare's sustained excellence over nearly four years, winning 29 races in succession, matters little as the London award is determined solely on 2018 performances.

Winx's supporters can still mount a powerful and compelling case for the champion mare, who had arguably her best ever year, winning seven starts at Group 1 level including runaway wins in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Cox Plate.

But has the Chris Waller-trained Winx, racing's winning machine, done enough to earn the Longines World's Best Racehorse award or is she going to be the bridesmaid again?

In the last two years, Winx has been pipped at the post by America's Arrogate for the prestigious title and there seems to be a strong push for either Enable or Cracksman to be awarded the sport's ultimate honour.

Enable won Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and US Breeders’ Cup Turf last year. Picture: AP
Enable won Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and US Breeders’ Cup Turf last year. Picture: AP

Peter Moody, trainer of the legendary unbeaten Black Caviar, concedes Enable, winner of a second successive Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe before her historic US Breeders Cup Turf win, is a worthy adversary for Winx.

"We are always going to root for our own and Winx probably deserves it,'' Moody said.

"Even when you put the travel issue into context, Winx has to go from Sydney to Melbourne and that takes at least 10 to12 hours.

"If they travel over 10 hours from England, they are in America. In half an hour they can be in Ireland or France, so the fact Winx hasn't raced outside of Australia should not be used against her.''

Form expert Gary Crispe,  one of the sport's most authoritative voices, pointed to Timeform ratings, the recognised global standard for measurement of thoroughbred performance for more than 60 years, as a clear indicator that Winx was world racing's superior performer last year.

Winx won her fourth successive Cox Plate in the spring, one of seven Group 1 wins in 2018. Picture: Alex Coppel
Winx won her fourth successive Cox Plate in the spring, one of seven Group 1 wins in 2018. Picture: Alex Coppel

"Winx recorded the highest individual Timeform rating (138) during 2018 while her second highest rating 136 would still make her dead-heat with Cracksman,'' Crispe said.

"By assessing the foursome (Winx, Cracksman, Enable, Gun Runner) and the best single performance under optimum racing conditions during 2018, Winx comes out as clearly the best.''

But the Longines World's Best Racehorse title is determined by the official handicapper's ratings, and Winx and Cracksman both returned a peak 130 rating last year.

Crispe said the one shortcoming of this approach was the assessment being based around a single figure.

This is the same argument raised by English racing authority Nicholas Godfrey, who said last month when he noted that Arrogate won the 2017 title of "de facto world champion on the basis of a one-off performance.''

Godfrey argued that Winx's record should not be defined or diminished by any ratings barometer.

"It is just too prosaic,'' he said. "Put simply, Australia's wonder woman is a phenomenon.''

Hall of Fame trainer David Hayes said he hoped the fact that Winx hadn't travelled overseas and that Enable won in three countries last year was not used against the Australian mare.

"I think Winx could win anything and she has done everything a horse can do,'' Hayes said.

"Winx is my favourite horse that I don't train so I am biased - I hope she wins.''

THE CONTENDERS

WINX - Australia

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Hugh Bowman

2018 record: 7:7-0-0

Group 1 wins: 7 (Cox Plate, Queen Elizabeth Stakes, George Ryder Stakes Chipping Norton Stakes, Winx Stakes, George Main Stakes, Turnbull Stakes)

CRACKSMAN - England

Trainer: John Gosden

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

2018 record: 4:3-1-0

Group 1 wins: 3 (Champion Stakes, Coronation Cup, Prix Ganay)

ENABLE - England

Trainer: John Gosden

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

2018 record: 3:3-0-0

Group 1 wins: 2 (Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, US Breeders Cup Turf)

OTHERS

GUN RUNNER - America

2018 record: 1:1-0-0

Major win: Pegasus World Cup

ACCELERATE - America

2018 record: 4:4-0-0

Group 1 wins: 4 (US Breeders Cup Classic, Awesome Again Stakes, Pacific Classic, Santa Anita Handicap)

ALMOND EYE - Japan

2018 record: 5:5-0-0

Group 1 wins: 4 (Japan Cup, The Shuka Sho, Japanese Oaks, Japanese 1000 Guineas)

# Winner announced Thursday

News Corp Australia


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