Record-breaking Winx saddles up for final race

Martin PARRY

Record-breaking mare Winx will aim to finish her career on a high and stretch her amazing unbeaten streak as she runs her final race in front of 40,000 fans on Saturday.

The world's top-rated turf horse has won 32 races in a row, an Australian record, and is widely expected to make it 33 by claiming her third consecutive Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick in Sydney.

She also holds a world-record 24 victories in Group 1 runs -- the highest class of thoroughbred racing, attracting the best horses and biggest prize money.

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In Australia, they include the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup.

At seven years of age most horses have retired and while Winx remains in prime condition, her owners feel now is the right time to call it a day.

"Win, lose or draw, I'm so proud of this beautiful horse," co-owner Debbie Kepitis told reporters.

"We had to make the arduous decision of when to pull the pin on her career as a race horse, but she's got a career as a mum."

And it could be a lucrative career. Experts predict each of her foals could fetch more than a million dollars.

So sought-after is her bloodline that a niece sold for Aus$750,000 (US$535,000) this year.

Trained by Chris Waller, the best galloper on the planet has already banked more than Aus$24 million in prize money and will line-up for one last hurrah with long-time jockey Hugh Bowman again in the saddle.

"I won't make her do anything she doesn't need to do," Bowman said.

"I'm sure she'll perform at the level we've become accustomed to seeing from her. I don't think that deeply into it. As long as we win I don't care how far we win by."

- 'Amazing ride' -

Such is the interest in her final race that a bigger-than-usual media pack turned up in the mounting yard at her Rosehill Gardens base on Thursday, spooking Winx.

With cameras snapping, she uncharacteristically kicked out after a trackwork session, slamming her hoof into a signage board, sparking fears she may have done herself some damage.

But to the relief of her owners, who have pledged never to sell Winx, vets gave her the all-clear.

Waller, who prefers to sit alone while watching her race, said it had been an emotional journey.

"It's been an amazing ride for a lot of people," he said.

All told, Winx has won 36 races. She began her career with three straight victories but then suffered a lean patch as a three-year old before her launching into her astounding unbeaten streak four years ago.

She smashed legendary sprinter Black Caviar's Australian win record last August when making it 26 in a row, and surpassed retired northern hemisphere jumper Hurricane Fly's then-record 22 Group 1 victories at the Chipping Norton Stakes last month.

A bumper crowd of 40,000 is expected at Randwick to watch her final race.

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