The world's top-rated turf horse, Winx, returns to Royal Randwick Aug. 19 in the Bob Ingham Warwick Stakes (G2) with the expectation that consecutive win No. 18 is just a formality.
"The nerves are starting to kick in," said part owner Debbie Kepitis. "She is our wonderful Winx, but you have seen they can be beaten. We don't want to think about that."
For Winx that bitter taste of defeat hasn't happened since the Seven News Australian Oaks (G1) as a 3-year-old in April of 2015. Since then, she has won 17 consecutive races, most by wide margins and many unextended, with a dozen of them at group 1 level.
The daughter of Street Cry has become a star beyond the track in Australia and has taken Kepitis, along with fellow owners Peter Tighe and Richard Treweeke, on an amazing ride.
Kepitis now has the best horse her family has owned, even if the 21 wins compiled by Winx doesn't match the winning record of Australian Horse of the Year Lonhro (26-3-2 from 35 starts), who went on to great success as a stallion.
Kepitis is from the Ingham family who developed the Woodlands racing empire and Crown Lodge stables, which were sold to Darley in 2008 and is the base of the Godolphin operation in Australia.
Her father's name is part of the title for Saturday's group 2, a race that was held at Warwick Farm, where their stables were based, before it moved to Randwick in 2014.
"I know she has won 12 group 1s, but this would be like winning another one for me, because of dad's name being associated with the race," Kepitis said. "I cried when I found out they had named it after him."
Winx is ready for a spring preparation, which will target a third Cox Plate (G1), a feat only achieved by Kingston Town in the 1980s. She will start her preparation in Sydney and step up in trip to the 2,040-meter (about 10-furlong) distance.
Trainer Chris Waller said she has regained about eight kilos (17 pounds) she lost following her last win in the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes April 8.
"As a mature horse now, she has put on a bit of extra weight, but she has turned it into muscle and it looks to be an asset to her," Waller said. "It's not a matter of asking her to improve at this stage in her career. It's just a matter of maintaining her. ... She is just so different, and not knowing what to expect (shows you) how good she is. She does things you don't see happen in my experience."
Winx was honored with New South Wales Horse of the Year as well as champion miler and middle distance horse Aug. 17, but it is her performance on the track that matters most.
Her returning run is often rated up with the best of her campaign and jockey Hugh Bowman has felt a spring in her step.
"Usually at this stage she is very calm and relaxed, taking everything in her stride, and it's not until we get to the business end of the campaign that she starts to feel as enthusiastic as she did this morning," Bowman said. "It's interesting that she is more on the ball at this stage of the preparation. She knows what she is here for and has been through the process a few times now, but it's exciting to have her so bubbly at this stage."