Bowman believes Winx could have won Cup
WINX is the greatest racehorse in Australia but she won't be lining up in Tuesday's Melbourne Cup. Still, it's fun to ponder "what if".
Fresh from claiming a record fourth straight Cox Plate, the mighty mare isn't in the running for her 30th win in a row when Australia comes to a standstill at 3pm, for a few reasons.
For starters, Winx isn't a stayer trained to win a 3200m race like the Melbourne Cup. She's a middle-distance specialist, the longest of her victories coming over 2200m.
It also doesn't make much sense for her to line up in a handicap race like the Cup, which sees horses weighted according to ability and form. Winx is so good, she'd be lumped with a huge stack of extra weight, making winning that much more difficult.
But her jockey Hugh Bowman says Winx is so special he'd have backed her to cross the line first in the Melbourne Cup - had she run a few years earlier. Speaking to Alan Jones on 2GB radio, Bowman said while Winx would struggle now as a seven-year-old, her younger self could have given Australia's most prestigious race a real crack.
"I've got no doubt she would (win the Melbourne Cup) Alan, had she run as a four or five-year-old," Bowman said.
"She's been so dominant at the weight for age level.
"I don't think she'd be winning now. She'd have a lot of weight - 65kg maybe.
"She'd have too much weight to run now and she's never run over that distance."
Winx is an icon of Australian sport, capturing the imagination of more than just racing enthusiasts across the country. It's why her absence - although justified and expected - from the Melbourne Cup makes it a little harder for the casual observer to immerse themselves in the mystique of the race, sports writer Richard Hinds argues.
This year has seen some question whether the Cup is being devalued by the influx of too many international horses and Hinds says that, combined with a lack of familiarity with local runners, has robbed passing fans of an obvious hero to cheer for.
"For the equine day-tripper, the absence of the highest-profile horse from Australia's biggest race seems a bit like Virat Kohli not playing Test matches or Cristiano Ronaldo absenting himself from the World Cup," Hinds said.
"Yes, yes, yes we get it … there was more chance Usain Bolt would start on the left wing for Barcelona in the El Clasico than Winx's unbeaten streak would be jeopardised in a 3200m handicap.
"Yet there is always something magical about those Melbourne Cups in which a beloved weight-for-age champion is put to the test."
Hinds said the increasing international influence has "unquestionably diminished the romance" of the Cup, writing: "Indeed, unless you spend late nights studying race videos from Chester or The Curragh you will find more familiar names in a Botswanan phone book than in this Melbourne Cup field."
Bowman was understandably thrilled after guiding Winx to another Cox Plate victory at Moonee Valley two weekends ago and he'll be seeking another high on Tuesday. He'll sit atop the Hugh Morrison-trained Marmelo as he seeks to win his first ever Melbourne Cup.
Bowman has been a recurring face on the first Tuesday of November since making his inaugural Cup appearance in 2009 but his best finish to date was in 2016 when he came fifth with Who Shot Thebarman. Marmelo was equal favourite last year but was hunted down in the straight and came ninth.
"It's a race that I haven't won and a race I dreamed of winning as a child, so obviously it would mean a great deal to me if I could win it," Bowman said. "I just dreamed of winning it all my life.
"It's different, it's definitely different. The amount of emotion and buzz and hype around the whole thing is huge, but it's something I'm very comfortable with.
"Having ridden in it and other big races around the world, it's just another major event and I'm very comfortable with the whole process now, whereas when I was younger you know it might have got to me a little bit."
Marmelo hasn't raced since August and Bowman is hoping he will be fresh for a tilt at the most sought-after silverware in Australian racing.
"The horse is in good shape, he's travelled well, he's certainly more developed than last year. I think Hughie Morrison is much happier with him than he was last year," Bowman said.
"I really think he'll run a big race. Whether he's good enough to win, that I can't answer. But I'm sure he'll run as well as he can run."