Grand run on a grand stage

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - EL­IZA SEWELL

RACE caller Matthew Hill ad­mits he had the line pre­pared.

As Winx crushed her ri­vals in her first race at Flem­ing­ton, Hill - posted high above in a broad­cast booth in the aptly named Hill Stand - had the length of the straight to make sure he got it right.

“Twenty-one to­day on the big­gest dance floor of them all,” Hill de­clared to the crowd of over 20,000 and the many more lis­ten­ing across the coun­try .

“She ab­so­lutely de­stroyed them.”

“Well that was easy, wasn’t it? Good­ness me,” Hill said af­ter Winx’s dom­i­nant dis­play.

He laughs when I com­pli­ment him on the line that will now be etched in rac­ing his­tory. “I thought about it dur­ing the week,” Hill said.

“You get a bit ner­vous about that, you want to sum her up.”

Be­fore his­tory is made as the clock broaches 3.04pm, Hill has his binoc­u­lars poised as he searches for Winx in the mount­ing yard. The crowd is now six, seven deep.

She looks good, Hill, who is call­ing Winx for just the sec­ond time, says be­fore the door to the broad­cast booth is locked to keep the neigh­bour­ing rev­ellers at bay.

David Eus­tace, an En­glish­man who’s been liv­ing in Aus­tralia for about three years and is an as­sis­tant to trainer Aaron Pur­cell, has seen some nice horses in his time.

His old man James trains out of New­mar­ket and he was wit­ness to the Frankel phe­nom­e­non in Bri­tain. Frankel was un­beaten in a 14-run ca­reer and while Eus­tace said he was a more im­pres­sive beast to the eye, Winx had him cov­ered for hys­te­ria.

“I don’t think Frankel cap­tured the na­tion quite like Winx has,” Eus­tace says.

“There is real hype to when she’s run­ning, a real countdown.”

Our cham­pion is pay­ing $1.20 on the TAB; the gen­er­ous book­ies have her at $1.22.

As Winx makes her way to the bar­rier the throng pushes to the fence. Blue flags wave. The ‘W’ badges sparkle.

She set­tles back as the roughie Magi­cool takes the lead, Winx has “plenty of air” at the 1200m.

As the seven-horse field rounds the bend she’s “stalk­ing” and with 500m to go, there she is.

“You do gen­uinely have to come here with an open mind think­ing she could get beaten,” Hill, who took over from le­gendary caller Greg Miles in April, said.

“They’re not the eas­i­est races to do… there’s an­tic­i­pa­tion. Peo­ple want you to pull a line out. The theatre comes into it.”

At the 400m she looms out­side the lead­ers, she’s barely jog­ging as she gob­bles them up then spits them out in the straight.

Jockey Regan Bayliss copped grass in his face aboard Caulfield and Mel­bourne Cup fancy Ven­tura Storm, who was sec­ond by six and a half lengths. “It was amaz­ing,” Bayliss said. “One minute she was there and the next sec­ond she was just gone. It’s some­thing I’ll re­mem­ber for a long time.”

Matt Dav­i­son trav­elled from Holbrook in NSW, home of the sub­ma­rine mu­seum on the Hume High­way, to watch this mare.

He’s with his mate Michael Markham who’s down from Raven­shoe, near Cairns, and Zach Cochrane from Toowoomba un­der the stew­ards tower.

“We watched her at the Cox Plate last year and de­cided to come down for an­other look,” 23-year-old Dav­i­son says.

“I went crazy, I was fist pump­ing when she went past the line. We didn’t bet on her, it’s not about that with her.”

They came for her and she de­liv­ered. Look out Moonee Val­ley.


HER OWN DANCE FLOOR: Hugh Bow­man de­mol­ishes the field to bring Winx home for her 21st con­sec­u­tive win yes­ter­day.

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