Weight lifted from Waller as Winx wows again

6 min read
Chris Waller's emotional reaction after Winx won her 30th straight race speaks volumes about the sense of responsibility he feels for the safety of his 7-year-old and her place as racing's poster horse.

Chris Waller knows Winx (Street Cry {Ire}) has long since passed into what he calls "public property" status, and he also knows better than to read comment threads on social media, but the emotional Kiwi reacted like the weight of the world had just left his shoulders after his mare returned after a 30th straight victory.

Perhaps it is the seven-year-old's longevity that has become most stunning now, especially given performances like Saturday's race-record breaking performance have become de rigueur, but that longevity and the unprecedented public profile bring with it a sense of responsibility for Waller.

Waller's teary post-race reactions have become as much a trademark as the little blue Winx flags, big crowds and hoopla that come with every win. On Saturday a sky writer spelled out "Winx" above the Randwick sky, fans lined up 15 deep around stall 108 and a giant cake had already been baked in celebration of her expected win.

Waller is a trainer that thinks, and feels, more than most and in his quiet moments at home, and away from the circus that is a Winx raceday, he must wonder what it is Winx is out there to prove in her final preparation.

A strong sense of responsibility

"For the good of racing," is the reason he keeps coming back to, and a scan of the packed crowd, from children with faces painted with blue Ws, to hardened old racegoers returning to the track for the first time in years, it's hard to fault his reasoning.

"Obviously I am a little speechless, but you just hope that you get a trouble free run, a safe run, and they come home safe," was Waller's reaction when Winx returned, safe and sound, to another rapturous reception from the 15,330 fans at Randwick.

"Obviously I am a little speechless, but you just hope that you get a trouble free run, a safe run, and they come home safe." - Chris Waller

"It's been our decision to push on a bit further and there are always the challenges involved in that and how people perceive it," he said. "But I think it's for the better for racing that she is here."

A relieved Chris Waller after Winx's 30th straight win

For all of the positive publicity generated by Winx, what weighs on Waller most is his horse's welfare, "bringing them home safe is my priority," he always says, but he must hear whispers that connections are being greedy by stretching the mare's career into the latter part of her 7-year-old season.

'Public property'

"There are always a small percentage of people who are a bit negative as to the reasons why we are pushing on," Waller said. "But the reason to push on was Winx. We have looked after her pretty well, she is still enjoying her racing and we look after her. She doesn't have to run, but she is enjoying it. I've been working with horses all of my life and this is for the betterment of racing. We have looked after her for the reason that she is now part of racing, we learnt after a year of her winning sequence started that she was no longer our property. I get to gauge what the public want and don't want, and it's good to be doing it for the right reasons."

"We learnt after a year of her winning sequence started that she was no longer our property." - Chris Waller

" That's why we haven't headed overseas with her, we are just looking after her, people overseas can read about her in the papers and see her on TV and tune in around the world."

And as far as the Twitter trolls are concerned, Waller doesn't need the negativity.

"I don't read social media and while we put a lot of stuff out on social media it's my duty not to read it, because I take things personally," he said. "I only ever want the horses to come home safe, but if I was that fearful of that stuff I wouldn't have any runners."

A world champion

What makes it more difficult is the fact Waller has never let Bowman or his riders take the handbrake off at trackwork. "We never really open her up as such, because it's all about safety, so you are going to the races blind but you are going to the races with a world champion," he said.

Waller needn't have worried, and if he did check Twitter or Facebook he would see an overwhelming worldwide reaction to a horse that seems to have the autumn at her mercy. Perhaps, all things being equal, it was yesterday that Winx was most vulnerable; first up at 1,400m on a quick track and facing a tricky field.

Missing the start – as she had done first-up previously – had been identified by some as a potential pitfall, but once Hugh Bowman had Winx positioned within striking distance there was never a moment where it looked like she was in trouble.

"She is pretty good, she has only missed the start once, she just gets into her own rhythm and the deeper she gets into her prep the better she gets with that stuff," he said. "The only concern is just normal racing, bounce of the ball, stuff, and that's out of your control like it is in any sport. Fortunately she is 10 per cent better than her opposition and that gets her out of trouble. She looked pretty good."

"Fortunately she is 10 per cent better than her opposition and that gets her out of trouble. She looked pretty good." - Chris Waller

Those assessments, "10% better" and "pretty good", seemed wildly conservative after Winx left her rivals – most of whom she will meet again in two weeks time – with what seems zero hope of challenging her winning sequence.

"The natural improvement will be there in two weeks time," the trainer said of a planned run in the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes, where she will chase a world record 23rd top level win. "And we didn't have the benefit of a first-up run last time," Waller warned.

Chris Waller says his biggest concern and priority will always be Winx's welfare

Still, if there is the slightest early morning sign Winx doesn't want to be there in two weeks, you know she won't be.

"We will make this horse last, and that's what it is all about now," he said. "She just showed how good she is, and that's what everybody wants to see and this is all becoming more about that; making sure the fans around the world get to see her at her best, and she certainly was today."