Anticipation has been building in Australia as wonder horse Winx prepares to take center stage yet again.
The iconic mare will be favorite for Saturday’s Apollo Stakes at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse, her first appearance since being named the 2018 Longines Horse of the Year alongside Cracksman.
The Chris Waller-trained champion is expected to record her 30th consecutive win — a run that includes a record 22 Group 1 victories.
It’s a journey that’s been thoroughly enjoyed by one of her owners, Debbie Kepitis.
“She’s taken us on a magic carpet ride, that’s really what it’s been like,” Kepitis told CNN Sport at the Longines awards ceremony in London’s Landmark Hotel.
‘Floating on air’
Winx hasn’t been beaten since April 2015 and has won some of racing’s most prestigious events — recording her fourth consecutive Cox Plate in 2018.
“Initially, it was like riding a wave but on a wave, you eventually crash,” continued Kepitis. “But she’s kept us going. It’s like we are just floating on air.”
Winx’s dominance has made her a national treasure in a country with a long history of horse racing. Huge crowds now descend on racetracks across Australia to catch just a glimpse of the champion and her jockey Hugh Bowman.
Her position in popular culture has resulted in inevitable comparisons with some of the world’s most dominant athletes.
“A lot of people have said she’s like Usain Bolt and a lot of people have said she’s like Cathy Freeman,” admitted Kepitis. “I’m happy to go with either of those.”
‘She knows she’s good’
Very few can compare to Winx — she’s earned more than $16 million in prize money since her debut in 2014.
Such momentum is credit to her good nature and ability to rise to the occasion. But, like any top athlete, confidence is key.
“She has a good inclining into how good she is. When she walks into the parade ring and everyone cheers she raises herself a little bit,” said Kepitis, who is partial to elaborate celebrations at the winning post.
“She is a bit of a loner. She likes to go to the back of the box and keep herself to herself. But then she’ll want company and will come for a bit of a chat. It’s lovely to have such a well-natured horse.”
Winx’s connections are fully aware that the seven-year-old’s incredible journey is coming to an end.
She’s unlikely to compete for a fifth consecutive Cox Plate this season and her connections are wary of pushing the mare too far.
The final decision, they say, will be up to Winx herself.