Grand run on a grand stage
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.