Plate hero Winx claims superstar status

In the build-up to the $3 million William Hill Cox Plate (2040m), trainer Chris Waller declared that Winx ‘could just be a superstar’.

There’s no doubting that now.

In one of the strongest Cox Plate fields in years, Winx delivered an utterly dominant performance.

Jockey Hugh Bowman made full use of barrier one, ensuring the four-year-old mare didn’t go around another horse as she went on to record a four-and-three-quarter length victory.

As The Cleaner took up his customary front-running role, Winx enjoyed a quiet run settling fifth on the rail.

When the others made their runs with 600m to go, The Cleaner got off the rail and Bowman took the gap quickly, shooting through and hitting the front on the turn.

That was all she wrote as Winx ($4.60 favourite) powered away with Bowman able to lap up the roar of the big Moonee Valley crowd in the final 100m.

The David Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained Criterion ($6) finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Highland Reel ($8), who was in that position throughout.

The $61 outsider of the field Pornichet was fourth, while Hartnell finished fifth.

But there were no excuses from the beaten brigade as the best horse won the race.

It was a huge result for Waller, who had collected 53 Group 1 winners since 2008, but hadn’t yet cracked one of Australia’s big four races (Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Golden Slipper).

Winx made sure his 54th Group 1 victory was one to remember.

“It’s obviously a huge thrill – it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Waller said.

“We’ve got a lot of good horses but you don’t even dare dream about Cox Plates.

“Obviously it was a great ride, she had a lovely run and she just put the foot down turning for home.

“It was shades of Sunline.”

Waller, who also had Preferment (ninth) and Kermadec (13th) in the race, was very positive in the run and thought Winx would be in the finish.

“I could see she was travelling pretty good,” Waller said.

“I quickly lost sight of the other two when I saw her coming through them.

“She’s just a superior athlete. She’s amazing.”

It was also an emotional victory for Bowman, who was in tears as he returned to scale after collecting his first major.

“All I wanted to be when I was a little boy was to be a jockey,” Bowman said.

“To be here riding on this stage is one thing, but to actually win a race like this I can’t tell you how much it means.

“I’m so thankful obviously to Chris Waller and the connections of the horse, but to my family and friends that are here, my two little girls at home, my wife … I just can’t believe it to be honest.”

Despite the emphatic win, Bowman revealed things didn’t go exactly to plan in the run.

“I drew barrier one, I had a lot of confidence in the mare (but) I was worried coming down this (Dean Street) side when Highland Reel was one-off the rail,” he said.

“There was a lot of room between me and the leader which wasn’t ideal. But she’s a Group 1 mare, she’s a serious racehorse. She adapted to the awkward position.

“From the 800 (metre-mark) I was very confident but at the 600 when The Cleaner rolled off and I went through, I didn’t want to be going that early.

“Sometimes you don’t have choices.

“You have to take the cards you’re dealt and I was on the premium mare that was able to capitalise on the run I got.”