This article is from the Inglis 2024 Preview Magazine. Click to read the full publication.

It promises to be the thoroughbred auction equivalent of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes romp, Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star’s Cox Plate battle or Nijinsky sealing the Triple Crown at Doncaster; you just have to be there. 

Inglis is honoured to sell the first filly foal out of Winx, the 25-time Group 1 winner and public icon. Such a sale hasn’t happened before and is very unlikely to happen again.

It will be early afternoon on April 8 with Sydney expected to turn on weather befitting this most rare of occasions. That warm autumn sun that stubbornly refuses to let go of the last vestiges of summer, gently kissing the coats of a spectacular catalogue of Inglis Easter yearlings.

Amongst the regally bred on the grounds at Riverside, one filly above all others will command the eye, especially when she enters the ring led by her attendant no doubt resplendent in Coolmore attire. 

A reverential silence is likely to fall over the auditorium, the gentle hum pierced only by the auctioneer reminding all just how unique this filly is.

Here parades the first foal of arguably the greatest mare of our age, Winx.

Riverside, more a theatre than a traditional sale ring, was built with moments like this in mind. Or was it? That we would see the like of Winx race - let alone have the opportunity to buy her firstborn daughter at public auction - would have stretched the imagination of those behind the Warwick Farm masterpiece. 

And auction house records have been trawled unsuccessfully looking for an event of similar magnitude. No, not Rachel Alexander or Serena’s Song or Miesque, Goldikova, Zenyatta, Zarkava or our own Black Caviar. 

None of their progeny have paraded before the auctioneer as unbroken stock. There have been colts out of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners, but none from dams with the body of work of Winx, and most certainly not a filly which offers the successful bidder the opportunity to handcraft a dynasty.

The timing of her entry to the ring is likely to be perfect. Trackwork and the daily essentials will be over for our friends in Adyastysia, morning will be breaking in the Emirates and surrounds while dusk will smother Kentucky. Only in Newmarket, Ireland and Deauville will an alarm clock, or alternatively a hot drink and stern constitution be required to witness what is the equine equivalent of an ‘old master’ going under the hammer at Sotheby’s or Christies.

Even that analogy in itself does not truly convey just how rare an opportunity this is. Great works of art are traded on an occasional basis, Faberge eggs the same, but the first foal of a mare that transcended across Australian racing into the consciousness of the general public, now that is beyond rare. If Australian non-racing folk were asked to name a racehorse, chances are just three would spring to mind; Phar Lap as they may have seen the movie, Black Caviar as she was the greatest sprinter in history who was never beaten and Winx, as they will have been swept along by her racecourse achievements.

Reaching double-digit tallies in Group 1 wins is usually the domain of tough, old geldings, but here was a mare that raced from two until late in her seven-year-old season, and that through a mix of her trainer’s perfect attention to detail, expert race scheduling and her own freakish ability saw her win 25 times at our sport’s defining level.

 It is important to note her record prizemoney tally of $26.4 million was accumulated without a victory in the new wave of so-called ‘pop-up’ races. Age, race distance, handicap weight, track design or depth of going, nothing stopped her after her 10th start. And as a mare with 43 trips to the barriers she showed excellence and longevity can co-exist, rare though it may be.

The power and stride Winx created through the use of her shoulder was amazing, so too her will to win. Watching her Theo Marks Stakes victory in 2015, just the third in that incredible 33-win streak, or when she chased down a tearaway leader in the 2017 Chelmsford Stakes, one marvelled at her sheer determination to find the winning post before all others.

In two centuries of racing in Australia no more than half a dozen horses deserve mention as a member of the pantheon of greats and Winx is firmly entrenched there. When his small dark head complete with dish and scar snatched victory from the gaping jaws of defeat for a record-breaking third WS Cox Plate, those of the Baby Boomer generation hailed Kingston Town as the greatest, never to be dethroned in our lifetime, his Moonee Valley deeds certainly not to be equalled. 

Then Winx came along and converted us, not just taking the hat-trick but winning an incredible four, three of which were merely catwalk struts down the Moonee Valley straight, more brutal displays of her irrefutable dominance over her rivals than fair equine contests.

It is well documented that Winx was raced by a partnership of Peter and Patty Tighe under their Magic Bloodstock banner, Debbie Kepitis and the late Richard Treweeke, now represented by his children Elizabeth and Rick. 

A tad unfairly, all were asked the same, impossible question: “What was your standout memory from when Winx graced the turf?” The question is impossible in that there must have been half a dozen memories from each of her 37 career wins leaving aside the near misses, so focussing on one moment becomes somewhat impractical.

Peter led off. “I wouldn’t say there was one particular time, more so many fantastic times, but the thing that really struck me was how she grew in stature and how more and more people got involved around the world; it was just a fantastic ride for horse racing,’’ he said.

“It was a universal trip that we all went on and it continues to this day - the number of people that contact my wife or I and ask how the mare and the foal are going is amazing.”

The ride was also foremost in Debbie’s thoughts. “We got swept up in it and you were never alone, everyone in racing was there with you,’’ Kepitis said.

“In a race when she wasn’t in a good position you could feel the tension and that was because everyone was on the ride with us, and that was, and still is, a wonderful feeling.”

Amongst a handful of great race day moments, one that stuck out for Debbie was Winx’s first run around Moonee Valley. “The synergy of winning her first Cox Plate in 2015 coming 20 years after Octagonal (paternal grandsire of Pierro) won his Cox Plate was very special,’’ she said.

“The Cox Plate was a race Dad and Jack (brothers Bob and Jack Ingham) desperately wanted to win so when Winx won on that anniversary it was touching personally.”

"The synergy of winning her first Cox Plate in 2015 coming 20 years after Octagonal (paternal grandsire of Pierro) won his Cox Plate was very special." - Debbie Kepitis

There were a host of other races we remember for various reasons, Debbie picking out a couple from the memory bank. “The other race was the Warwick Stakes when she missed the start by four lengths. Mathematically she couldn’t win from there but she dug so deep. Her first win at Warwick Farm tingled the spine because that was exciting and then there was her first Group One win in the Queensland Oaks after she lost out in the ATC Oaks. That day she tailed off again and then charged home to win by nearly four lengths; that was breathtaking.”

For Rick, leading in Winx after her second Queen Elizabeth Stakes win in 2018 on behalf of his father was a very special occasion, but then great memories were often created on a parallel plane to her career.

“Having a marquee at Moonee Valley gave us an opportunity to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen for years.” But as Elizabeth eloquently explained, the marquee didn’t just serve as a meeting point and watering hole for the day. “The Moonee Valley Race Club were very accommodating and we had 50 people in 2016, 90 people the following year and 160 for her fourth Cox Plate,’’ she said.

“While it was a great excuse to invite friends and so much fun that everyone could be part of it, we were conscious that at the time it was very difficult on the land and it gave our country friends and the wider community an opportunity to forget the worries of everyday life and enjoy themselves. It was dubbed the ‘Trewinx Marquee’.”

Although the rest of us weren’t amongst the inner sanctum, we got to go on the ride in our own way. Elizabeth reminded us of just what a four-legged publicity machine Winx was for the industry at large. “The day of her last start in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick was just a sea of blue,’’ she recalled.

“There were children dressed in blue and white silks, the Winx flags and caps, blue cocktails, even skywriting, and then to see the excitement on the face of someone of the status of (broadcasting legend) Bruce McAvaney, it’s goosebump material just talking about it now.”

And now the next act in the Winx story is about to unfold and as Inglis Bloodstock chief executive Sebastian Hutch explained, this is so much more than just the sale of a valuable filly.

“The word ‘unprecedented’ can be thrown around a lot, but in the case of this filly it very much applies,’’ Hutch explained.

“Her sale is history-making in the context of contemporary Australian bloodstock and arguably the global market. It is so exciting for everyone at Inglis to sell such a filly with such a unique background. 

“The sale of this filly also represents an opportunity for the industry to capitalise on the level of interest and engagement that an occasion like this has the capacity to generate. It is a big deal for us and we are selling a particular kind of horse that people who aren’t ordinarily interested in bloodstock are going to take an interest in and that makes her special.

“I think it is important not to take these opportunities for granted.”

While her dam will be forever a part of Australian racing folklore, the filly loses nothing on her paternal side. A juvenile Triple Crown winner, it shouldn’t be forgotten Pierro has Cox Plate pedigree and that he carries the blood of Lonhro back to Sir Tristram and the great Sadler’s Wells on his dam side.

Pierro has to be one of the most versatile sires at stud in Australia, getting an Oaks winner in Pinot, a Derby winner in Levendi, middle-distance stars like Arcadia Queen, Shadow Hero and Regal Power and, importantly, dynamic sprinter/milers like Pierata. Drawing from such a combined gene pool there’s nothing to say, like mum, that his daughter won’t be able to do it all.

The filly has called the lush paddocks of Coolmore Australia her home from birth and the responsibility of preparing for sale such a unique individual hasn’t been lost on the farm, as racing and bloodstock manager John Kennedy explained.

“It’s a huge responsibility looking after a filly like this,’’ Kennedy said.

“Winx is a horse we as an industry owe an awful lot of gratitude towards for getting people involved in following the sport both here and internationally. There will be a lot of emotion at the time of the sale, not just the ownership group but the team on the farm that have been looking after her because she has become a huge part of the daily routine of a large number of staff.”

And what can buyers expect to see when she parades at Riverside?

“She has her mum’s head and shape, and looking at her in the paddock I’d say that’s Winx as a foal, it’s uncanny really,’’ Kennedy said. “She is a genuinely straightforward filly, a standout across the world this year. On type and mentality she is everything you would want to breed from.

“When we sat down and discussed the mating with the ownership group this is as good a mating as you could have hoped for. In attitude and character she is the boss of the paddock, nobody goes to the feed box before she gets there and if she decides to go to the water trough the other yearlings all follow her. She is the boss, no doubt about it.”

Although Rick resides in New Zealand the remaining owners are regular visitors to Winx and her foal and all can see those same alpha characteristics in the youngster.

Speaking for he and Patty, Peter explained: “We’ve seen her a few times and it is hard to understand the uniqueness of her, she has a personality like no other. She’s not frightened or intimidated by humans, and where a lot of foals won’t leave their mother she is an inquisitive little thing and would come over and would stick her head through the fence to see what you are doing. She’s interesting to watch, she does what she wants to do but mum keeps her in check. She’s certainly not your average horse in characteristics.”

Debbie added: “Winx has produced a beautiful filly. She is very strong minded and her personality has developed to be very similar to her mum’s. She is very much a leader and once she has become accustomed to her surroundings she tends to dominate.”

For Elizabeth the youngster is “so beautiful, inquisitive and so like her mother”, and in Rick’s words: “Dad has left us a great legacy. I’ve only seen photos of her but to me she looks a mini-me of her mother and that’s what we are hoping she is.”

"She is very much a leader and once she has become accustomed to her surroundings she tends to dominate." - Debbie Kepitis on Winx's Pierro filly.

The decision to take to market such a rare jewel was a difficult one for all concerned, but the underlying feeling was that here was an opportunity to give the world the chance to carry Winx’s legacy on to greater heights, and that all but demanded the filly be put up for auction.

As Debbie explained: “It will be good for the industry. The ownership group could have retained her but she is an industry horse and taking her to a sale for everyone to watch and enjoy, I think it opens a direct link to Winx for the world to be involved in.”

As for the Tighes, Peter said: “We are taking her to sale so that everyone in the world gets the opportunity to see what happens with her. Like the Winx ride, she will be another story to follow. There will be worldwide interest in what happens to the foal, and the sale is the start of that great story.” For Rick it is a milestone in worldwide recognition of Australian bloodstock.

“It’s going to be a great thing for the bloodstock industry in Australia, that’s for sure,” he said.

If those combined remarks carry the scent of altruism then so be it, after all, the ownership group all but gave the industry Winx throughout her racing career, why should it be any different with her foal?

So get ready for what should be a fascinating 2024 Australian Easter Yearling Sale, but when it is done, buckle up for the ride that follows with the Pierro x Winx filly. It promises to be wild.

This article is from the Inglis 2024 Preview Magazine. Click to read the full publication.