At 5.30pm on Saturday May 16, 2015, jockey Larry Cassidy did what he always does when returning home from the races – he called his wife. But this call was different to all of those he had previously made to Michelle.
Cassidy was bursting with excitement.
Less than three hours earlier, the New Zealander partnered three-year-old filly Winx to a breathtaking win in the group 3 Sunshine Coast Guineas at Caloundra.
“It’s like driving a Suzuki, then jumping in a Ferrari – that’s the acceleration she’s got,” Cassidy told The New Daily ahead of Winx’s return to racing in Saturday’s group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes at Randwick.
“I called my wife on the way home and said ‘she might be the best horse I’ve ever ridden’. My wife said ‘really, what about (champion mare) Sunline (32 wins from 48 starts, including 13 group 1s)?’. I said ‘I know’ … I’ve never had a horse give me that acceleration before.”
As history shows, Winx’s Guineas triumph would be the first of 22 on the bounce.
During that incredible unbeaten run, Winx has won the Cox Plate – widely regarded as Australia’s best race – three times in succession (2015, 2016, 2017).
People, even non-racing folk, go to the races just to see her – just as they did when Black Caviar was scorching the turf.
Most people who have followed the Winx phenomenon know she’s trained by Chris Waller, an unassuming Kiwi, who is renowned for tearing up after witnessing his wonder mare notch another win, and that her regular rider is Hugh Bowman – the boy from Dunedoo (a village of less than 1000 people located on the north-western edges of the Sydney basin) who has become the best in the world.
A member of ‘Team Winx’ they may not be familiar with, though, is Guy Mulcaster – the bloodstock agent who found her at the 2013 Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast.
Originally from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, Mulcaster developed a keen eye for horseflesh from a young age.
“My father raced horses and I used to go and work at the horse studs during the school holidays from about age 13 or so,” Mulcaster told The New Daily.
Mulcaster spent several years broadening his knowledge, learning from some of the best in the thoroughbred industry, both at home and abroad.
He worked with legendary Kiwi trainer Laurie Laxon, and in the spring of 2003 their mighty mare Champagne won the Mackinnon Stakes, before being narrowly beaten by Jezabeel in the Melbourne Cup three days later.
In 2008, Mulcaster went out on his own, forming Mulcaster Bloodstock. His philosophy was simple.
“You’ve got to have a good client that trusts in what you’re doing. They leave it to you to make a judgement call for them; you’re spending a lot of money for somebody’s hobby,” said Mulcaster.
“Some people (bloodstock agents) place a lot of emphasis on walking, they go over the top about it. I’m not particularly big on walking – I haven’t seen them have a lot of walking races for these horses.
If they’ve got the right sort of demeanour, I think it helps them become an athlete and run.”
Five years after going it alone, Mulcaster experienced his crowning glory, finding Winx, a daughter of brilliant sire Street Cry and (dam) Vegas Showgirl, who is now arguably the greatest horse ever to grace the Australian turf.
“We liked the Street Cry progeny. The dam appealed to me because I had seen her race, she was very resilient – she was trained in New Zealand, she had a lot of races in New Zealand but also raced in Australia,” Mulcaster recalled.
It was approximately 3.30pm on Thursday January 10, 2013, on a predictably hot Gold Coast day, when Lot 329 walked into the ring.
Bidding opened at $40,000. It ceased two minutes later when Magic Millions auctioneer Grant Burns knocked the filly down to Mulcaster’s client, Peter Tighe, for $230,000.
“We had a budget of $200,000, but that at stage in the sale they realised that $200,000 wasn’t going to be enough, so they managed to stretch out to $230,000 and they got the right horse,” Mulcaster said.
“It’s a good thing they kept going, it’s a pretty cheap purchase when you look at it now.”
Tighe recalled: “We didn’t have many requirements; we were just trying to find something nice to race, something that was nicely bred.
“Back then she was a little immature filly that looked good; we hoped she would grow into something nice.
“I was sitting next to Chris (Waller) and Guy when I was bidding. We got to our mark, then we went a bit further. I kept asking Chris if he liked her enough to keep going, he did, so we kept going, and the rest is history.”
A Brisbane fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Tighe races Winx in partnership with Debbie Kepitis (daughter of ‘chicken king’ Bob Ingham, who owned 1995 Cox Plate winner Octagonal) and Richard Treweeke (an octogenarian, who watches his star from the comfort of his lounge room).
Thanks to Mulcaster, Tighe enjoyed further success at the elite level with top stayer Preferment.
And other group 1 winners that were purchased on Mulcaster’s recommendation include: Kermadec, Rangirangdoo, Sacred Falls, Foreteller, Delectation and Good Project.
With such a glittering honour, it’s little wonder Tighe insists Mulcaster is one of the best bloodstock agents in the world.
“His eye for horse flesh in second to none; he’s certainly proved himself on the world stage – he’s purchased group 1 winners in Australia, New Zealand and brought them in from Europe as well,” Tighe said.
“He’s an integral part of our team. He needs owners to buy them; we need trainers to train them.
“We follow his judgement; he still buys all of our horses.”
Winx is currently paying $1.06 for the win in the Chipping Norton.
If she starts at $1.06 or shorter, she will be the hottest favourite in a major Sydney race since Valerius won the same race at odds of $1.03 (33-1 on) in 1961.