Kiwi Waller’s finest hour

Sunday Star-Times - - Racing -

THE glam­our girl of Aus­tralian racing has gal­loped her way into equine im­mor­tal­ity with her third Cox Plate win, equalling the feat of Kingston Town.

Af­ter her world-class per­for­mance, her trainer, ex-pat Kiwi Chris Waller, will make all of the se­nior racing ex­ec­u­tives around the world wait a lit­tle longer be­fore any hard and fast over­seas plans are made.

An emo­tional Waller choked back the tears as he de­scribed his hap­pi­ness at clinch­ing this rarely seen feat with a gal­loper who has now stretched her win­ning se­quence to 22 races.

Waller and his wife Stephanie strug­gled to con­tain their joy when Winx raced her way into racing his­tory in front of 33,000 ador­ing sup­port­ers.

But Chris Waller’s won­der mare was forced to dig deep and al­most to the bot­tom of her re­serves to fight off the gal­lant run of Hu­mi­dor, who came closer than any other horse in Winx’s three tri­umphs to de­feat­ing her.

Hu­mi­dor, a for­mer Kiwi run­ner who ran sec­ond be­hind Wil­lie Cazals in the 2016 Li­va­mol Clas­sic when trained by Johno Ben­ner and Hol­lie Wyn­yard, looked a se­ri­ous threat in the fi­nal 100 me­tres but the cham­pion mare lifted and won by half a length in front of a sold-out crowd at Moonee Valley.

Godol­phin chal­lenger Folkswood fared best of the rest and fin­ished third ahead of the three-year-old Royal Sym­phony in the fa­mous A$3 mil­lion weight-for-age event.

‘‘Of course, it’s such a re­lief,’’ Waller said. ‘‘But now I want to get her home and get her right and then look at over­seas. I’m re­ally be­ing hon­est in say­ing that there’ll be no call on her un­til per­haps early next year.

‘‘I’m digest­ing one of the great­est mo­ments of my life, but I’m aware rep­re­sen­ta­tives from so many coun­tries, un­der­stand­ably, would love to have her racing on their patch.

‘‘But I can’t say enough. She’s got to be spot on and right in her­self be­fore we go any­where.

‘‘She’s the prop­erty of the pub­lic now. They love her and I’ll never do any­thing wrong by her in mak­ing plans she can’t ful­fil.’’

Vic­to­rian racegoers will have to wait an­other fort­night be­fore the cham­pion mare races at Flem­ing­ton, but that en­gage­ment, ac­cord­ing to Waller, is only now a 40 per cent chance of be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

‘‘Again, I want to get her home and get her set­tled and then have a good long look at her,’’ he said.

Waller has ruled out a trip to Ja­pan for the $8 mil­lion Ja­pan Cup, again want­ing time to look at ev­ery­thing that is avail­able for her.

Ja­pan, Hong Kong, Dubai and clubs through­out Europe will now be bend­ing over back­wards to bring Aus­tralia’s world-class mare to their shores.

Jockey Hugh Bow­man was overjoyed af­ter he rode back.

‘‘I am lost for words,’’ he said. Bow­man was caught wide in the early stages be­fore eas­ing Winx to set­tle fifth in the run­ning line.

Winx be­gan to im­prove her po­si­tion from the 900m and had the lead on the turn with Hu­mi­dor the only horse giv­ing chase.

‘‘She has gone down, she will go down as one of the great­est to grace the Aus­tralian turf,’’ Bow­man said.

‘‘She would have be­fore to­day but it has so much mean­ing to ev­ery­one in our in­dus­try.’’

For Bal­larat trainer Dar­ren Weir, it was nearly a first Cox Plate when his for­mer Kiwi stayer Hu­mi­dor loomed large and strong with 200 me­tres to go.

The crowd took col­lec­tive sighs when jockey Hugh Bow­man looked be­hind to see a horse, for the first time in years, is­su­ing a chal­lenge to Winx’s great­ness.

‘‘I thought with 50 me­tres to go he was go­ing to be right there, but he didn’t quite make it,’’ Weir said. ‘‘But I’ve got to say this, he’s ab­so­lutely blind.

‘‘It was a su­per per­for­mance, he’s thriv­ing on racing and it’s off to the Mel­bourne Cup with a very, very real chance.’’

Weir said Hu­mi­dor was un­likely to have an­other start be­fore he tack­led the Mel­bourne Cup.

IT’S hard to imag­ine there is a more pop­u­lar horse in Chris Waller’s sta­ble than Winx but Who Shot The­bar­man is right up there.

The New Zealand-owned nine-yearold has ce­mented a place in his fourth Mel­bourne Cup with vic­tory in the Moonee Valley Cup (2500m) over his sta­ble­mate Li­bran who also heads to Flem­ing­ton.

‘‘In the sta­ble he’s just as pop­u­lar as Winx,’’ Waller said. ‘‘What more does that say.

‘‘He means so much to the staff and it shows if you look af­ter them they will per­form for you. He will run in in the Mel­bourne Cup for a fourth time.

The first time he ran third. The sec­ond time he was knocked over and al­most fell. The third time he ran fifth.

‘‘He ran sec­ond in the Syd­ney Cup only six months ago,’’ Waller said.

Who Shot The­bar­man fin­ished sec­ond to his sta­ble­mate Grand Mar­shal in last year’s Moonee Valley Cup and his win was his first in al­most two years since the 2015 Zip­ping Clas­sic.

Hand­i­cap­per Greg Car­pen­ter said he would not give Who Shot The­bar­man any in­crease in weight for the Mel­bourne Cup in which he has 54kg.

GETTY IM­AGES

Hugh Bow­man salutes the sold-out Moonee Valley crowd fol­low­ing Winx’s third suc­ces­sive Cox Plate vic­tory.

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