McAvaney: Why it’s impossible not to love Winx
IT'S not the first time I've fallen in love with a racehorse. Winx is not my first love. It's been happening ever since I can remember.
Those early days growing up in Adelaide; watching, listening as Bart Cummings forged his reputation as the "Cup's King".
Those early affairs involved Light Fingers, the chestnut mare who won the Cup so bravely in 1965, and Galilee who conquered her, and everybody else, a year later when he took the Cup's double.
Over the years there have been the obvious ones, from Kingston Town to So You Think. Black Caviar and the Diva.
When Makybe Diva won that third Melbourne Cup 13 years ago, I was certain it was the defining moment in Australian racing. The Everest, pardon the pun, had been reached.
Then when Black Caviar finished as the perfect mare, 25 from 25, I was equally convinced that winning sequence would never be matched.
And here we are, a few years later, in the wonder of Winx.
I went from admiring to committed on that day she won her first Cox Plate.
The next year I became completely devoted, and that devotion turned into an obsession with that historic third win.
When I think of great deeds in Australian racing, there are six that jump out to me, in chronological order.
- Phar Lap's four wins on the four days of the 1930 Flemington Carnival. Big Red's assault will never be matched. We do our racing differently these days.
- In 1954, Rising Fast put down a marker that I don't think will be repeated - winning the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup in the one spring.
- Kingston Town's three Cox Plate victories, all so different, and the last, oh so dramatic, was a first and seemingly would leave him alone with that landmark achievement.
- The Diva and that unprecedented, unmatched, unforgettable third win in the toughest of all the races, the Melbourne Cup. As racecaller Greg Miles said, "a champion became a legend".
- And the then there was Black Caviar and her 25 out of 25, including one in front of Her Majesty the Queen. And that one was the most dramatic of them all.
- And now Winx. Where do you start? 28 consecutive wins, four springs and three autumns without defeat. Twenty-one of them are Group 1s. Three times Horse of the Year. Three times Cox Plate winner, already inducted into Australian Racing's Hall of Fame, on the verge of doing something no other horse has even attempted, let alone achieved.
It's not just facts. It's the way she does it. It's being knocked over, and picking herself up. It's that determination, that will to win, that acceleration.
That ability to turn a seeming defeat into joyous victory in a matter of strides; it continually amazes, continually enriches and continually gives us all something to look forward to for those thousands and thousands of Australians who love horses, and love their racing.
The feeling I have when she goes into the barrier is hard to describe.
I know what it feels like. It's just difficult to put into words. That tension, that fear that the golden run will come to an end. It's tension like you rarely feel.
You do feel attached, committed.
We do feel like we know the jockey, and the trainer; what a combination. The owners who are so generous and forthcoming. We feel part of the Winx family.
We don't want that winning run to ever come to an end.
And then, when she hits the front and we know she's home … suddenly everything in the world feels right.
I do, I guess, love her. I'm not alone. I'm in a long, long queue.
And boy, like everybody else, I feel so lucky to have been watching while she's been running.
Bruce McAvaney is a legendary sports broadcaster with almost 40 years experience. He heads Channel 7's racing coverage.