“She’s going off to be a mum”!
As a sold-out Sydney crowd of 50,000 watched champion mare Winx run her last race, mixed emotions were the order of a history-making day.
Part-owner Deb Kepitis beamed with pride for the last time as the freakish bay accepted the crowd’s adoration before heading off to a new life of hopefully producing future champions.
“She’s an amazing athlete. The public realise the amazing history they’ve witnessed today,” Mrs Kepitis told the Seven network after the race.
Winx came home as the unbeaten star in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000 metres at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Her triumph was also a trifecta of sorts, as she won the same race in 2017 and 2018.
Veteran sports broadcaster Bruce McAvaney, part of the Seven racing team’s coverage, called Winx’s win a “fairytale ending”.
“It’s the best story … how lucky we are,” he said, voice tinged with awe.
Jockey Hugh Bowman and trainer Chris Waller embraced as Winx stopped briefly in front of a cheering crowd to the sounds of “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner.
Waller then gave his beloved mare a big kiss on her nose – a bittersweet moment when the mare twitched her head and left him with a split lip.
Bowman rode his beloved mare doing a lap of honour up and down the white fence line towards the mounting yard.
Winx, who won 37 times from 43 starts, ended her career with 25 Group 1 races and capped that astonishing record on Saturday with her 33rd consecutive win. Bought for $230,000, she won $24 million in prize money
An emotional Hugh Bowman, in his famed blue and white silks, rode the mare out in steady grace and style on a dry surface, steadying at the 800-metre mark before making her trademark push to the lead.
“It’s over, isn’t it? Very mixed. It’s been very real for me all day,” Bowman said on his way back to the mounting yard.
“Everyone watching around the world – America, Europe, Africa, this horse has captured the hearts of a lot of people around the globe,”
“She just showed what she’s capable of doing. Maybe we’ll never know how good she really is,” Bowman lamented.
“It’s been complete luck a horse like this has come into my life.”
“I am so proud of her.”
For trainer Chris Waller, who on Thursday blamed himself for taking off the mare’s earmuffs and prompting some unaccustomed misbehaviour from the normally well mannered steed, this was his 100th win.
“I can’t describe her in words. What can you say? Great for Australia! It’s what racing brings to so many ages of people, religions – it brings the world together as one,” he said, wiping away tears as he embraced wife Stephanie and children.
Winx made her way through a sea of people and cameras on her way to the mounting yard and starting gate, many spectators wearing her blue and white colours and desperate for one last look at the racing legend.
She was looking “switched on”, according to the Australian Turf Club.
— Australian Turf Club (@atc_races) April 13, 2019
With her own official Winx Twitter account boasting 13,700 followers, a clear message was posted on the social media platform:
“The day has come! No words can explain how fortunate we have been to be in the presence of greatness! Today we farewell..Our champion..
Our World#1..Our WINX..for one final time.
“Worldwide she has captured our hearts & we’ll cherish it for ever more!,” it said.
— Winx (Official)Ⓜ️Ⓜ️Ⓜ️Ⓜ️ (@winx_horse) April 13, 2019
By 2.45pm, the anticipation and expectation of a packed crowd of thousands, was electric.
— Russell McManus (@russelljm88) April 13, 2019
THE FAIRYTALE IS COMPLETE – @winx_horse has done what so many other champions could not, and gone out a winner. Sit back and marvel at her last ever start, winning today’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes @royalrandwick #GoWinx. pic.twitter.com/4OcT5rN650
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) April 13, 2019