Raise your glass to Winx’s hero­ics

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - JAY HOVDEY

She’s a beer. She’s a postage stamp. She’s a bona-fide su­per­star and a na­tional trea­sure. In this case, that na­tion is Aus­tralia.

Winx envy hit the world’s great rac­ing stages hard last year. Dubai fig­ured they had a race tai­lor-made for the mar­quee mare on World Cup Night. Eng­land’s As­cot pulled out all the stops try­ing to re­cruit her for its royal meet. Even the Breed­ers’ Cup sent se­ri­ous feel­ers south­ward to en­cour­age a pos­si­ble au­tumn de­tour from her ap­pointed rounds.

No dice, though. Winx and her peo­ple are home­bod­ies, more than con­tent to be the big­gest fish in a pond that by turn ob­sesses with cricket, tennis, horse rac­ing, and Aussie rules foot­ball. It is not true that all 24.6 mil­lion peo­ple who live in Aus­tralia are hard-core sports nuts. It only seems that way.

Winx, 7, is the mare with the oth­er­worldly 29-race win­ning streak that dates to May 2015. After a cam­paign that in­cluded nd her fourth straight vic­tory in Aus­tralia’s pre­mier weight­for-age event, the Cox Plate, Winx is back in train­ing with Chris Waller at his sta­ble near Syd­ney, where she ri­vals the won­drous Opera House in both dra­matic stage­craft and ar­chi­tec­tural splen­dor.

On Saturday, a del­e­ga­tion from Winx World will be at Santa Anita Park to ac­cept the Sec­re­tar­iat Vox Pop­uli Award, spon­sored by the fam­ily of the late Penny Chen­ery and their Sec­re­tar­iat Foun­da­tion. Trans­lat­ing to “voice of the peo­ple,” the Vox Pop­uli has zigged and zagged through its brief history to such dis­parate Thor­ough­bred per­son­al­i­ties as Zeny­atta, Cal­i­for­nia Chrome, Amer­i­can Pharoah, Ben’s Cat, Rapid Re­dux, Mu­cho Ma­cho Man, and Payn­ter. Winx, the first in­ter­na­tional win­ner, out­polled Breed­ers’ Cup Turf win­ner En­able, a two-time win­ner of the Arc de Tri­om­phe, and Jus­tify, win­ner of the Amer­i­can Triple Crown.

“We’re in awe of the ac­co­lade, con­sid­er­ing the other nom­i­nees,” co-owner Peter Tighe said. “It’s an­other in a long line of awards she’s got­ten, and we’re truly amazed by all of them.”

Tighe’s Magic Blood­stock bought Winx as a year­ling in part­ner­ship with Richard Tre­weeke for 230,000 Aus­tralian dol­lars at the Magic Mil­lions Gold Coast auc­tion on Jan. 10, 2013, after which they brought Deb­bie Kepi­tis into the mix.

Kepi­tis is the daugh­ter of the noted Aus­tralian breeder Bob Ing­ham, who sold the fam­ily’s breed­ing farm to Sheikh Mo­hammed 10 years ago for a re­ported $500 mil­lion. Tighe’s busi­ness, be­sides Thor­ough­breds, is in whole­sale fruit and veg­eta­bles, while Tre­weeke is a for­mer ad­man and teenaged ranch hand. It was Tre­weeke who came up with the filly’s name, in­spired by her dam, Ve­gas Show­girl.

“If you’ve ever been to Ve­gas and go and see a cou­ple of shows, you re­al­ize there’s some pretty good sorts up on stage,” a mis­chievous Tre­weeke told Aus­tralia’s “60 Min­utes” TV magazine. “If you like ’em, you wink. And if she likes you, she winks back.”

Sorry to say, Tre­weeke, 88, will not be mak­ing the trip to Santa Anita. Tighe and his wife, Patty, as well as Kepi­tis and her hus­band, Paul, will be on hand, all of them ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Santa Anita for the first time. After the Santa Anita trip, the Tighes will linger with friends in the States, then head for Lon­don to re­ceive more Winx honors as the Longines World’s Best Race­horse.

“I’ve raced a lot of horses over the years, and her longevity at the level she com­petes is truly unique,” Tighe said. “We’re asked if she’s a dream come true. But re­ally, no one could ever dream any­thing like this hap­pen­ing to us.”

A com­mem­o­ra­tive Winx la­bel of Aus­tralia’s Carl­ton Draught hit the shelves last year, not long after the $1 Winx stamp was is­sued. Last Oc­to­ber, Tighe and Kepi­tis shared a Winx beer and their three Cox Plates with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son. Four days later, Winx won them a fourth.

“I can never get used to just how many peo­ple fol­low her so dili­gently,” Kepi­tis said. “They’ll come up to me and say, ‘She runs in two weeks, right?’ It’s been re­mark­able and such a bless­ing. It’s our priv­i­lege to share her with so many.”

Own­er­ship of an iconic Thor­ough­bred comes with op­por­tu­ni­ties to do more than sim­ply cash checks. The peo­ple be­hind Afleet Alex har­nessed their star to help fund child can­cer re­search. Team Zeny­atta lends her name re­li­giously to all man­ner of causes. Long after Sec­re­tar­iat had passed from the scene, Penny Chen­ery, and now her fam­ily, lever­aged Big Red’s pop­u­lar­ity for the good of the sport.

Both Kepi­tis and Tighe have promised, at some point on Saturday, to visit the life-sized bronze statue of Zeny­atta near the grand­stand foun­tain, if only to pay trib­ute to an­other win ma­chine known the world over.

“We fol­lowed Zeny­atta faith­fully,” Kepi­tis said. “It’s fas­ci­nat­ing that they’re both by Street Cry, but the idea we might have a mare like her some­day was so far­fetched.”

The idea that Winx might ever com­pete in Amer­ica is also bor­der­line fan­tasy, es­pe­cially at her age. Then again, this year’s Breed­ers’ Cup will be at Santa Anita, just a short hop across the Pa­cific pond, where the Mile on firm ground will await with open arms. And if I’ve got my history right, Zeny­atta had a pretty good day in 2009 at the Santa Anita Breed­ers’ Cup, when Winx was noth­ing more than a gleam in Street Cry’s eye.

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