Winx crowned Australian Horse of the Year

Winx crowned Australian Horse of the Year

Sport
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Phillip Bate analyses news from the Queensland racing scene.

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FOURTEEN-time Group 1 winning mare Winx was crowned Australia’s Champion Racehorse for the second straight year at the awards hosted by Racing Queensland in Brisbane on Sunday. 

It comes as the Chris Waller-trained mare prepares to attempt winning a third-consecutive Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 28, after her breathtaking win in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington the previous day, Saturday, October 7.

In fact, the Turnbull Stakes – first run in 1948 – is named in honour of former Queensland pastoralist and Victoria Racing Club chairman Richard Turnbull whose family owned several properties in central western Queensland including Lansdowne, Tambo Station and Evesham where he jackarooed in the mid 1890s. He also had the distinction of being the first VRC chairman to own a Melbourne Cup winner Sirius (1941) which later stood at another Turnbull family Tambo property Bayrick.

Waller also claimed the Bart Cummings Award – named in honour of the late 12-time Melbourne Cup winning trainer – as the leading Group 1 winning trainer for 2016/17. Winx’s regular jockey Hugh Bowman won the Champion Group 1 Jockey Award.

Congratulating owners, trainers and jockeys honoured at the awards, Racing Minister Grace Grace said Winx had a strong association with Queensland. “She went through the sales ring at the Magic Millions on the Gold Coast as a yearling and kicked off her 21-straight winning streak on the Sunshine Coast in 2015. Her winning connections include Queenslander Peter Tighe and it was great to see him in Brisbane along with the other owners at the awards,” Ms Grace said.

Remarkably, Winx finished 115 votes ahead of her nearest rival, Hartnell, with Chautauqua, Black Heart Bart and Almandin rounding out the nominees.

Team Winx at the Australian Horse of the Year awards (from left): Hugh Bowman (jockey), Chris Waller (trainer), Debra Kepitis (co-owner), Peter (co-owner) and Patty Tighe, Paul Kepitis and Magic Millions Managing Director Vin Cox.

Team Winx at the Australian Horse of the Year awards (from left): Hugh Bowman (jockey), Chris Waller (trainer), Debra Kepitis (co-owner), Peter (co-owner) and Patty Tighe, Paul Kepitis and Magic Millions Managing Director Vin Cox.

Winx joins Makybe Diva and Might And Power as dual title winners while Black Caviar and Sunline have three each.

Waller said it was Winx's determination to “do her best” every time was her biggest attribute. 

"We're seeing it in each and every start now and the ride continues. There's plenty of intensity because no longer is she just a horse the racing public know. She's become a sporting icon and a public icon," he said. 

The good news didn’t stop there for Team Winx, with the mare also named Champion Middle Distance horse, finishing well ahead of Hartnell, Le Romain, Black Heart Bart, It’s Somewhat and Jameka.

The boy from Dunedoo, NSW,  had a season to savour in 2016/17, riding his way to 13 Group 1 wins in Australia – including the Queensland Derby aboard Ruthven – and a further three abroad, Bowman has now ridden Winx in 20 of her 25 wins including the last 18 of her current 21 winning streak  

The Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua won his second consecutive Champion Sprinter Award, following a season which saw him claim a third consecutive TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick. Black Heart Bart polled second in the voting, with Le Romain, Maleguerra and Redzel earning special mentions.

Mick Price sprinter Flying Artie secured the Champion 3YO Colt or Gelding award, edging Godolphin’s Astern. Price’s other outstanding 3YO last season, Extreme Choice, joined Galaxy winner Russian Revolution and Stradbroke Handicap winner Impending as nominees.

It was also a golden night for the team at Darby Racing, with Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign claiming the coveted Champion 2YO Award. Shortly after, 2017 UBET Queensland Horse of the Year, Yankee Rose, was awarded Champion 3YO Filly.

Caulfield Cup and BMW winner Jameka claimed the Champion Stayer Award, while Kathryn Durden’s three-time Grand National winner, Wells, took home the Champion Jumper. 

Racing Queensland announces $1 million QTIS Race Day

RACING Queensland (RQ) has outlined a two-year strategy to promote the QTIS March race day, which will see QTIS eligible horses race for more than $1 million in bonuses and stakes from March, 2019.

It follows RQ’s earlier announcement of the new $250,000 QTIS 2YO Jewel and the introduction of the $125,000 QTIS 3YO Jewel, scheduled exclusively for QTIS eligible horses in March 2018.

From March 2019, the 3YO Jewel will rise to $165,000 whilst QTIS eligible horses will race for a QTIS Double Stakes Bonus.

The QTIS Double Stakes Bonuses will be available for any QTIS eligible winner on any of the seven supporting races on the card. It means if the winner of the $100,000 Goldmarket Handicap is QTIS eligible, the winning purse of $64,000 will double to $128,000.

The 2018 QTIS Jewel Series will also deliver regional QTIS Double Stakes Bonuses, with the winners of qualifiers held in Cairns (3YO), Townsville (2YO), Mackay (3YO), Rockhampton (2YO) and Toowoomba (2YO) receiving ballot-free entry into the rich Jewel events.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Eliot Forbes said the introduction of the race day reaffirmed RQ’s commitment to the promotion of the Queensland breeding industry through the innovation of programming.

“Racing Queensland realises the importance of the breeding industry in our mission to grow racing for future generations. The 2018 QTIS Jewels and subsequent $1 million race day starting in 2019 aims to provide further incentives to breed in Queensland, while providing increased returns to owners, and encouraging further growth at the 2018 March QTIS Magic Millions Yearling Sales,” Dr Forbes said.

Magic Millions managing director Vin Cox said the introduction of the $1 million race day was a “tremendous” boost for Queensland participants.

“Racing Queensland should really be congratulated. It’s a wonderful opportunity to significantly reward owners and trainers involved with racing a QTIS horse and I’m sure that plenty of them will be targeting a race at the Coast on the day,” Mr Cox said.

“This whole race day will really complement the $1 million Magic Millions QTIS Race we hold in January, and there is no question it is a terrific shot in the arm for our March QTIS Yearling Sale, as it gives a real focus to both the weekend and the sale days to follow. It’s an exciting innovation and I’m looking forward to it having a really positive effect in the years to come,” he said.

Queensland Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Basil Nolan said: “This is exactly the kind of programming and thinking outside the box that can really make a difference. In my opinion, QTIS is already the best state based incentive scheme in the country and this type of day only further adds to it. To be able to race an older horse and run for such prizemoney is fantastic and will really reward owners and trainers of QTIS horses,” Mr Nolan said

QTIS–March 2018 Raceday/Bonus Series

  • $250,000 QTIS 2YO Jewel.
  • $125,000 QTIS 3YO Jewel.
  • Regional Jewel Series Races – Toowoomba, Cairns, Mackay, Townsville and Rockhampton.
  • Boosted Prize money for QTIS eligible horses through “QTIS Double Stakes Bonuses”.
  • Winners ballot exempt, guaranteeing entry into Jewel races.

QTIS–March 2019 Raceday/Bonus Series

  • $250,000 QTIS 2YO Jewel.
  • $165,000 QTIS 3YO Jewel.
  • “QTIS Double Stakes Bonuses” for all QTIS eligible winners across the supporting program.
  • Regional Jewel Series Races – Toowoomba, Cairns, Mackay, Townsville and Rockhampton.
  • Boosted Prizemoney for QTIS eligible horses through “QTIS Double Stakes Bonuses”.
  • Winners ballot exempt, guaranteeing entry into Jewel races.
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