Hoop dreams: Jockeys remember their turn with Winx
JOCKEY Larry Cassidy was so blown away by the acceleration Winx showed in winning the Sunshine Coast Guineas that he took the saddle home and framed it.
That win, back in May 2015, was the first in the champion mare's current 24-race unbeaten run and Cassidy's one and only time in her saddle.
Hugh Bowman is now the jockey associated with Winx and the incredible winning streak that could match Black Caviar's record if she wins the Group 1 $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
A couple of years later Cassidy said: "I knew mine was a one-off ride. I said to Hughie Bowman 'she could be the best horse I have ridden'."
Bowman asked him about his Doncaster Mile winner Sunline. "I said, 'I know, but horses just can't win like that'," Cassidy said.
Anyone who has seen some of Winx's shaky starts and rocket fast finishes knows exactly what he means. Imagine being in the saddle.
That amazing talent was not so obvious to Jason Collett, the first jockey to ride Winx in a race in 2014. She won her first two starts with Collett in the saddle.
"If you were to say to me that she would go on to win the Cox Plate three times straight I would not have believed you," he said.
Collett and Cassidy are among a lucky handful of jockeys who rode Winx in her early days. None could be blamed for looking at Bowman with a tinge of professional envy. Back in 2015, when she was just a good prospect for a Group 1 win, Tommy Berry rode Winx twice.
"The first time I rode her she gave me a very good feel," Berry said.
"It was a small field and she travelled up really strong to the bend and then she put on that turn of foot we have come to know so well. She really impressed me."
Two weeks later in the Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill Gardens, Berry was again in the saddle. "Once again she travelled really well to the bend and then got held up. I am proud to have ridden her," said Berry, who enjoyed his own golden run on super sprinter Chautauqua.
"To do what Hugh has done on Winx is really impressive. If I ever found a horse in my lifetime to win 25 straight I would be pretty pleased."
Bowman rode Winx for the second win in the current run before James McDonald took the saddle for the third win. Back then she was just another mare with a lot of potential.
"She had won the [Queensland] Oaks so we knew she could gallop but there was not the weight of expectation on her that there is now," McDonald said.
McDonald still hopes to get his hands on another champion.
"It's why we turn up for work, to try to find the next Winx," he said.