Arsenal’s Invincibles are, rightly, considered to have achieved a status of immortality having gone the 2003/04 season undefeated. Winx, likewise, rose into another realm of greatness after her 29th successive victory in the Cox Plate, a race she was winning for the fourth straight year. But why has it taken so long for her to be accepted as a sporting goddess?
It is difficult for any horse anywhere in the world to string together a run of successes at the top level. A glance at the form of some of the UK’s greats of recent years highlights that. Cracksman has so often looked imperious and yet even he has been beaten this year, behind Poet’s Word in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes. Enable is, to all intents and purpose, our Winx, an elegant but ruthless champion. Yet she has lost within the space of the last two seasons, far more recently than Australia’s equivalent.
So to end up with an unbeaten run stretching back over three-and-a-half years, encompassing 22 Group Ones, the last ten of which have been won in an unbroken sequence, is a feat unworthy of entertaining discussion. Yet, there has been one and one that continues to be hotly debated.
It is worth putting in context with the aforementioned Arsenal team’s achievements. They went 38 games unbeaten at the top level although their only genuine opposition that season were Manchester United, who they came within a width of a crossbar of losing to. Nevertheless, their feat is incredible and no experts deny this. However, in football, unlike in racing, going undefeated does not insist upon victory. To wit, Arsenal drew twelve of their thirty-eight games. Winx, of course, has relied purely upon passing the post in front. No ties, nothing comparable.
The most important thing about Winx’s run is that she has garnered a following that extends far beyond racing fans and experts. Enable is special but her charms do not yet include those of marketability that Winx possesses. Indeed, not since Frankel and Kauto Star passed into retirement in 2011-12, has there been a horse who has captured a significant part of the public’s imagination.
Whereas celebrations at Longchamp were for a champion, those at Moonee Valley yesterday were for an adopted daughter of the Australian nation. Their prodigy not only put on a show but proved a point to a number of her doubters, including a number of the English media. And if there’s anything Australians love more than anything else, its a sporting victory over the sceptical Poms.
The form, in my opinion, can no longer be crabbed either. True, in terms of ratings, European horses have been stronger than their Australian counterparts for the last few years and they have even started to dominate the Southern Hemisphere’s big prizes. But in beating Benbatl, a horse known to be a good traveller, with Group One victories in Germany, Dubai and in Caulfield’s Ladbrokes Stakes, she has defeated one of the UK’s globetrotting superstars.
Realistically, exporting Enable or Cracksman was never on the cards. That should not detract from the performances of the Gosden duo, nor the near excessive streak of Winx. They live at opposing poles and the excuse of travel would be all too easy a backboard for the trainer of whomever lost the battle.
I think Winx would win. In a match over 1m2f, I have seen nothing that would dissuade me from that opinion. It needn’t matter though. She is a great and whatever occurs from this day forward, she has nothing left to prove.