The everlasting bond, Winx and Umut

6 min read
Turkish-born Umut Odemislioglu has been alongside Winx as her strapper since her first day in Chris Waller's yard. Umut chats about his connection with the superstar mare and his personal goals after her retirement.

Winx (AUS) (Street Cry) is an intriguing character. Aloof, almost arrogant, she doesn’t show much emotion or affection, a typical trait of champion race mares.

Sometimes a softer side shows and that’s when she’s alongside her devoted strapper Umut Odemislioglu. Watching them together in the tie-up stalls at the races you can occasionally catch a glimpse of Winx bowing her head, flicking her ears slightly and respectfully gazing at him. It’s obvious that 35 wins and more than $23 million in prizemoney down the track, this man and horse are firmly bonded together in one of the greatest chapters of the Australian turf.

Umut, 36, has cared for Winx every day of her life since she walked into Chris Waller’s Rosehill stables six years ago. Like soul mates, they just flow together. She trusts him, he trusts her and they bring out the best in each other.

Umut embraces Winx after her win in the G1 George Ryder S.

“She definitely knows she’s different. I can feel it. She’s proud of herself. She’s not a snob but she’s proud and she’s the boss actually. We don't spoil her too much. If she doesn’t want you there you just leave her alone. Sometimes she is very friendly and she puts her head down and you can pat her but usually she doesn’t like it. She is just a work horse.”

“She definitely knows she’s different. I can feel it." - Umut Odemislioglu

“She knows she's a superstar. It’s hard to explain but she is a different sort of horse and the smartest horse I have ever worked with,” said Umut.

Always a horseman

An aspiring racehorse trainer, Turkish born Umut has scaled the globe learning as much as he can about horsemanship. When he decided to venture all the way to Australia, he had only one thing in mind and that was “to find a champion”.

He remembers the day he chose “The Winx” as he refers to her in his thick Turkish accent.

“I picked out two babies in the stable, both by Street Cry (IRE) (Machiavellian). One colt and one filly. I liked him as a stallion and I was a big fan of his daughter Zenyatta when she was racing. I got Winx and it was like winning the lottery.”

“Before she raced I said she was a champion when we were joking around with friends so we had a bet for a dinner who was going to end up with the better horse. It was my luck that she became a champion.”

"I got Winx and it was like winning the lottery.” - Umut Odemislioglu

All jokes aside, Umut has never once placed a bet on Winx for fear of “jinxing her.”

He lives right across the road from her stable in Western Sydney and within a five-minute walk he can be there at any time of the day or night to tend to her needs.

“Sometimes I have to go and check her. If I don’t feel good, I just go there and check on her and have a quick look and then come home,” he explained.

The routine of a champion

They start their day together at 3:30am every morning. Things wrap up after the daily track work ritual at about 10am and then at 2:30pm Umut and Winx link up again for another few hours to potter around, go for a light walk and maybe a pick of grass before the evening feed-up.

Race days are long and intense. Managing her recovery is one of the most important aspects of competition day. Like all horses in Chris Waller’s racing team, she spends time unwinding in an aqua walker and after that Umut meticulously bandages her legs for her night of rest in the stable.

“Winx is famous and I am just her assistant. It’s a privilege to have a chance to work with this horse.” he said.

“Winx is famous and I am just her assistant." - Umut Odemislioglu

Umut spends more time with Winx than his own family. An only child, his mother Meltem lives in Izmir, a coastal town in Turkey. Through sheer tyranny of distance, limited time and money, he has not seen her for seven years. But they speak regularly and she relishes the updates.

“She finds the pictures of us before me and sends them to me and she watches all the links of her races on the internet.”

Occasionally Umut and Winx FaceTime her directly from the stable.

“Sometimes I call her with the video chat with Winx and she loves it.”

Sun sets on an era

Soon enough those online chats and updates on Winx will come to an end. With the sun starting to set on her brilliant career I ask Umut if he feels sad about this extraordinary era of his life drawing to a close.

“I’m more than happy she will retire as long as she is healthy. It’s going to end sooner or later she's on top now and if she finishes like that it’s great. She deserves it and has done more than enough on her part.”

“I’m more than happy she will retire as long as she is healthy." - Umut Odemislioglu

The Winx experience has inspired him and given him the confidence and profile to follow his dreams to one day go out on his own as a trainer.

“I wanted to go back to my country at one stage but it’s going backwards economically. Turkey is too unstable so I will stay here and maybe train horses because I have some Turkish friends who want to support me.”

"I want to step up because I cannot stay in one role. We only live once and we have to try.” - Umut Odemislioglu

“I won’t be aiming too big and be hands on. I want to step up because I cannot stay in one role. We only live once and we have to try.”

It seems certain Umut will one day make the bold leap into the training ranks but before that he’s going to savour every last moment with Winx including the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth (2000m) Stakes on April 13 at Randwick.

“I feel like it’s a dream,” he muses.

Umut, many of us agree.