Five talking points from a week of Winx magic and a Foxbridge win for the little guys
ONE: Champion horses find a way to win
Winx's breathtaking win in Saturday's Warwick Stakes in Sydney proves that champions find a way to win when it really counts. Her unbeaten streak was in all sorts of trouble when she left the gates four lengths behind the field but Winx did what Winx does: win horse races. Sure she is better than the rest of the field and she had the ice cool Hugh Bowman on her back but her performance to beat stablemate Foxplay by half a neck was the run of a champion and it extended her unbeaten streak to 18. Much like Terror To Love's third New Zealand Trotting Cup victory (2013) - when he blew the start and gave the field a 10 length advantage - the champion horses know when they are meant to win and find a way to do it. In the words of Hugh Bowman "She just defies logic".
TWO: Hard work brings rewards
Matamata couple Hamish and Karyn McQuade are on the ride of their life with Saturday's Group II Foxbridge Plate winner Underthemoonlight. They bred and train their El Hermano mare and share ownership with a stable stalwart Cliff Solomon. The hard working couple had experience with the mare's family and when her dam Midnight Dip was put up for sale Hamish labelled her a "must buy". Midnight Kiss, third in the New Zealand Oaks before her sale to America where she is the dam of a Grade I winner and a stakes winner, was their introduction to the successful family. Despite limited capital, the couple went to the 2009 Karaka Mixed Bloodstock Sale and spent $4,500 to secure Midnight Dip. They bred to El Hermano at his introductory fee of $500 which produced their winner of over $250,000 before on-selling Midnight Dip. More could be in store for Underthemoonlight in the Group I Tarzino Trophy on September 2. She was at $26 for the Tarzino prior to the Foxbridge and Hamish McQuade grabbed a piece of the action after her outstanding work during the week. She's into $10 now.
THREE: Champions like Winx bring people to the races so can any of our most promising horses be like her?
We all know they don't grow on trees but how much does New Zealand racing need a champion like Winx? What she does for racing cannot be measured but we all know it is huge. Only Winx could bring 10,000 plus people to Randwick for a Group II meeting in howling winds, not to mention the hoards of media that will plaster her all through the mainstream news. Few, if any, horses get cheered before the race by fans waving flags of the star attraction's colours but that is the treatment Winx gets. What Winx once again showed on Saturday was a horse who becomes a people's champion brings the crowds to a racetrack like no marketing campaign can. Jon Snow, Bonneval, Summer Passage, Gingernuts, Melody Belle, Chocante: can any of them or any other Kiwi horse become New Zealand's next Australasian champion? Everyone who derives an income from the racing industry should have their fingers crossed.
FOUR: Quality of Cup nominations a concern
Mark Purdon may not have had any luck at the World Drivers Championships but his odds of winning the New Zealand Trotting Cup are about as minuscule as Winx will be in her next start. The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club has scraped up 29 nominations for the $800,000 Cup in November but the overall quality, outside of Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's All Stars runners is far from great. Several nominations are a long way from Cup standard and there is no guarantee that others will be there for the second Tuesday in November. There are some handy up-and-comers but they, like many of last year's field, could soon be racing overseas if they cannot match it with the likes of Lazarus, Heaven Rocks, Dream About Me and possibly Have Faith In Me. Finding ways to provide more opportunity and incentive for open class pacers to stay in New Zealand must become a priority.
FIVE: Spring is in the air
It might not have seemed like it when the rain and thunder was in full swing at Te Rapa on Saturday but when the good horses start appearing you know spring is close. Two weeks out from the first Group I of the season and the big bangers are back. Kawi's run on Saturday showed he is ready to win the Tarzino Trophy (formally the Makfi Challenge Stakes) for a third time in what will be an interesting clash with boom filly Volpe Veloce. The likes of Jon Snow, Bonneval, Gingernuts and Thee Auld Floozie are all likely to kick off their season during the three-day carnival at Hastings. The Listed El Roca Sprint on the opening day will provide the first serious look at some of this year's three-year-old crop. After a wet and wild winter, spring cannot come soon enough.