Winx leads ARF weekend of top class racing

The world champions Australian mare Winx (AUS) led a high class weekend of racing in Asian Racing Federation jurisdictions winning her third Group 1 WFA Apollo Stakes over 1400m at Randwick on Saturday.

Winx (AUS) and Hugh Bowman head to the line in full command, picture
Winx (AUS) and Hugh Bowman head to the line in full command, picture

There are of course the champion’s numbers, 30 straight wins, 34 in total from 40 starts, stakes earnings of $23,080,674, a new race record for the Apollo Stakes, but jockey Hugh Bowman said it all of Winx’s win at Randwick on Saturday in the 2019 renewal of the race that ‘the result was there for everyone to see’.

Indeed it was as the world champion mare, trained by Chris Waller, not only blitzed the field by 2 1/4L she clocked 1.20.88 to smash Grand Armee’s former race record of 1.21.06 and she came home over the final 600m in 33.02.

Happy Clapper (AUS) (Teofilo) as expected was second with Egg Tart (AUS) (Sebring) and Brenton Avdulla third, the margin 2L. Patrick Erin (NZ) was fourth, Unforgotten (AUS) fifth, Tom Melbourne (IRE) sixth, Aloisa (NZ) seventh Brimham Rocks (GB) eighth.

Bowman brought mare back to the winners stall along the outside running rail to thunderous applause. He rode back to the 200m mark to allow the entire 15,330 crowd to appreciate the mare and her performance.

“We expected something like that today, but as I said during the week until we get her here under race conditions you really never know until she is put under a competitive environment which he was today. After I rode her here last Saturday morning it really gave me the confidence she was back and she was ready to race. She certainly franked those thoughts this afternoon,” said Bowman.

This was the first race of Winx’s new and possibility last campaign with trainer Chris Waller relieved at Saturday’s win but casting a warning for her next race in the Group 1, Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) back at Randwick on March 2nd.

“You just hope you get a trouble free run and they come home safe. In that position she just showed how good she is. That is what everyone wants to see and it is becoming more of that, making sure the fans, worldwide now get to see her at her best and she certainly was today first up,” said an emotional Waller.

“She is great for racing.

“Seeing her come back like that and with natural improvement the plan is the Chipping Norton. Last year we dd not have the beauty of the first up run and first up she went straight into it so look out in two weeks’ time
“I saw Hugh niggle at her at the 500m just to say time to wake, she quickly strode to the front. We were obviously weary of Happy Clapper and how much acceleration he has, but she just ambled up to them.

“Total relief.

“I think for the betterment of racing she is here. We never really open her up as such which is sort of our safety valve so you go into the races blind, but you go into the races with a world champion,” he said.

At Sha Tin on Sunday the Beauty Generation (NZ) steamroller flattened all-comers as Hong Kong’s champion won a sixth career Group 1 success in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).

Beauty Generation (NZ) and Zac Purton dominating Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Beauty Generation (NZ) and Zac Purton dominating Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

“It’s just a repeat of what he’s been doing all season,” trainer John Moore said as his charge was being led back to the turf for a victory photo-call.

Hong Kong’s equal highest-rated (127) horse of all-time had just taken his season’s tally to an impeccable six from six.

A second Champions Mile at the end of April beckons for Beauty Generation if he can maintain his form through an entire season. With the rigours of that task in mind, connections may decide to go straight there, bypassing the usual lead-in, the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m).

“I think the owner will be asking me to give him a bit of a break so he’ll be having a week or so and then I plan to trial him over 1000 metres and then over a mile, and that should have him cherry ripe for the Champions Mile,” Moore said.

Owner Patrick Kwok is fixed on winning a second Champions Mile to go with Beauty Generation’s back-to-back wins in Sunday's feature and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

“First things first, we are focused on the Champions Mile,” Kwok said. “We’re not sure if we’ll run him in the Group 2. After the Champions Mile we’ll see how he is and then we’ll decide about going to Japan for the Yasuda Kinen."

Exultant (IRE) then cemented his star stayer status in a thrilling Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) and the manner in which Exultant took control of the Gold Cup (2000m) left no room for doubt that he is fully entitled to his official billing as Hong Kong's second best horse behind the majestic Beauty Generation.

The Tony Cruz-trained gelding was bidding to emulate a Hong Kong hero of yesteryear in this HK$10 million contest.

Ivan Allan's Indigenous had been the last horse to win the 2400m Hong Kong Vase before stepping down in distance to land the Gold Cup and Exultant replicated his achievement thanks to a dashing ride from Zac Purton and his own deep reserves of stamina.

Purton reflected on his fifth Group 1 success of the season in typically matter-of-fact fashion: “They were just going too slow,” he said.
“But I knew my horse was the best stayer in the race and I knew he would keep going, he just does not seem to get tired."

Exultant's next targets are the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 2000m on April 28th and the Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) on May 26th.

In Japan on Sunday the race favourite Inti (JPN) extended his winning streak to seven by capturing his first Grade 1 title in this year’s February Stakes (1600m) at Tokyo.

The son of Came Home marked a ninth in his debut start and had been undefeated in all six starts that followed up to his latest Tokai Stakes (G2, dirt, 1,800m) triumph four weeks earlier. Overcoming issues concerning recovery from fatigue which forced him to limit his starts to three in both the 2017 and 2018 season, the lightly raced five-year-old now boasts a record of seven out of eight, all on dirt over 1,700 or 1,800m distances.

Trainer Kenji Nonaka celebrates his eighth graded win and first JRA-Grade 1 title since opening his yard in 2008. Since his latest 2017 Arima Kinen victory with Kitasan Black, this is jockey Yutaka Take’s 76th overall JRA-Grade 1 win and fifth February Stakes title—Gold Allure (2003), Kane Hekili (2006), Vermilion (2008) and Copano Rickey (2015).

Creating history Nanako Fujita became the first Japanese female jockey to ride in a Grade 1 event riding fourth pick Copano Kicking (JPN) who trailed in the rear and lost ground going wide on both turns. The Spring At Last gelding showed the second fastest late drive but had too much ground to make up and finished a six-length fifth.

“I am truly grateful to all who made it possible for myself to ride in this race. I have experienced this course numerous times before but today, everything looked totally different,” commented Fujita after the race.

There was dominance on show at Abu Dhabi as well at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club's meeting on Sunday evening with the meeting completely dominated by owner and breeder Khalid Khalifa Al Nabooda who, remarkably, was responsible for all five Purebred Arabian winners, four carrying his colours and trained by Ernst Oertel.

Jockey Tadhg O’Shea, retained by Al Nabooda, said: “As I keep saying, Ernst is a top trainer and has a great team behind him. From the very start of the season the horses have been flying and it is a credit to him and his staff. I will say it again, but I am just the lucky one who gets on them and privileged to ride for Mr Al Nabooda and Ernst.”