The newest Group 1 race on the Australian Thoroughbred racing calendar is held at Randwick racecourse in Sydney.
It is now named the Winx Stakes in honour of the great champion and it is new only in the sense that prior to being elevated to Group 1 quality in 2018, the first year the name changed from the Warwick Stakes, it had been a Group 2 race.
The Winx Stakes is 1400 metres and is run under weight-for-age conditions.
The Winx Stakes was first run in 1923.
Races were measured in furlongs at that time and this race was seven furlongs. A furlong in roughly 200 metres; those who want a more precise figure will be pleased to know that one furlong equals 201.168 metres. Those who take a historical perspective might appreciate that the term furlong was an old English unit of length based on the average length of a plowed furrow in the English open/common-field system.
The Winx Stakes was run at seven furlongs from 1923 until 1929. The following year, it lengthened to a mile before reverting to seven furlongs in 1938.
It remained that distance until it was metricised to 1400 m in 1972 before being shortened to 1300 metres for 2000 and 2001.
The current length of 1400 metres was restored in 2002.
Before the current Group classification came about, the Winx Stakes was known as a Principal race, meaning that it was the headline race of the meeting, although there were certainly meetings with additional Principal races.
It was first run under the new system in 1979 and was classified as Group 2 until 2017, when the need to commemorate Winx led to the name change and an infusion of prize money to bring it up to Group 1.
This race has moved around quite a bit, alternating, over the course of its soon to be 100-year history, between Warwick Farms and Randwick. Once, in 2000, it was run at Canterbury Park Racecourse.
Those two tracks are not far apart geographically, but Warwick Farm’s unique triangular oval is a world apart from Randwick’s more traditional oval.
Lonhro won the race at Warwick in 2001 and in 2003 at Randwick. San Domenico did this, too, winning in 1950 at Randwick and 1951 at Warwick. These were the only two instances we could verifiable discover of the race being won by the same horse at different tracks.
The Winx Stakes seems to have attracted quality gallopers over the years, as it is/was the first top-level weight-for-age race to be run in the lead up to all the prominent spring carnival races. Many horses were first up following a winter spell and used the race to as preparation for the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick, or in the case of the better horses, the Group 1 George Main Stakes.
If winning the race three times is justification for changing the name to the name of the winner, it could have been called the Limerick Stakes.
Limerick won three times in a row from 1927 – 29. He was considered a New Zealand horse, although save his dam Medley, the preponderance of his line was from Great Britain. Limerick was occasionally unsound, but somehow managed to win 29 times at distances from 1200 metres to 3600 metres. He also won the Chelmsford Stakes three times, several key races twice and a total of 22 major races.
During his career, he beat some key horses from Australian Thoroughbred racing history, such as Amounis and Windbag. Both Amounis (1930) and Windbag (1926) won the race.
Next to win the Winx/Warwick Stakes three times was Kingston Town. He needs no introduction and is covered in depth elsewhere on this website. His wins in this race were from 1980 – 82.
Finally, Winx won three times from 2016 – 18, including the last time after the race had been renamed in her honour.
In keeping with the idea that the Winx Stakes attracts the top gallopers, the list of horses that have won this race twice in long and impressive.
The first was a somewhat obscure horse named Johnnie Jason, Winx Stakes winner in 1931 – 32. Not much has survived this horse by way of historical information, other than he was foaled on 1 January of 1928. That date sounds a little odd and might be an approximation. His lines were mainly anonymous and the only notable ancestor identified was New Zealand’s Martini Henry. Another source lists Johnnie Jason as being 93 years old.
Records from that era being what they are, it can only be assumed that Johnnie Jason was a capable, not great, horse.
Chatham (1933 – 34) is another matter. Chatham won enough major races to be remembered, and while he won the Winx Stakes just twice, he won the Craven Plate and the Linlithgow Stakes three times each, the Cox Plate, Hill Stakes and Epson Handicap twice each and the Caulfield Stakes, All Aged Stakes and Doncaster Handicap once each.
Chatham was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 and was the sire of 16 stakes winners.
The next two-time winner was San Domenico. Like Johnnie Jason, not much history survives San Domenico and the only truly notable ancestor listed is his grandsire, Australia’s Heroic. Heroic was a hero of the track winning just about all the notable races, as well as the breeding barn, where he contributed to the formidable Ajax.
Tarien comes along next, winner in 1953 – 54. He was a decent sort, not great, but he is credited with winning the Rawson Stakes, the AJC Challenge Stakes, the AJC Craven Plate and the George Main Stakes, so he must have been a bit of all right.
Two-time winner Sky High (1961 – 62) was outstanding by any definition of the word. His pedigree was beyond reproach. An older brother was Skyline. Sky High was by Star Kingdom from Flight’s Daughter and notable ancestors include Helio, Stardust, Hyperion and Gainsborough.
Sky High won 21 major races, beginning with the 1960 Golden Slipper and concluding with the AJC Autumn Stakes in 1963. He won the Lightning Stakes twice and the Caulfield Stakes twice, so two wins in the Winx Stakes came as no surprise.
His induction into the Racing Hall of Fame was practically a foregone conclusion and he went in in 2010.
Next two-time winner Gay Gauntlet won in 1965 and again in 1967. There were no more repeat winners until Kingston Town.
Super Impose is another Hall of Famer. He has no race named for him, but there is a pub in his honour called the Super Impose Bar at Randwick Racecourse. He won the Doncaster Handicap, Epson Handicap and Chipping Norton Stakes twice and the capper was the 1992 Cox Plate.
The years of 1996 and 1997 suppled two-time winner Filante. This horse deserves better than the history he is given. He won almost $2 million and was beating horses of the calibre of Saintly. He was regularly right there with the likes of Dane Ripper, Juggler and Octagonal.
Lonhro won the Winx Stakes in 2001 and 2003, as was described earlier in the section about horses to win the race at Warwick and Randwick.
Pinwheel was the winner in 2011 and 2012. He was a working horse, making 45 starts. He never won at Group 1, but he won at Group 2 and 3 and was often near the top in his races, so while he is not famous, he returned his investment to his connections.
Notable One-Time Winners
Some of the top horses ever to race won the Winx Stakes once. The chronological list, beginning with 1925, includes Whittier, Windbag, Amounis, High Caste, Flight, Bernborough, Tulloch, and Sunline.
Some of these may have chosen to race elsewhere in the year following winning the Winx Stakes, some may have been beaten, but all of them are household names in the households of Thoroughbred racing fanciers.
The Winx Stakes, nee Warwick Stakes, is blessed with a prestigious spot on the Australian Thoroughbred racing calendar. As the first Group level race of the season, it has become something of a Who’s Who of racing. It generally attracts a strong field of runners looking to face top competition ahead of the major spring carnival races.
As is not rare in NSW racing, the fields are not necessarily large, but the top horses, top trainers and top jockeys all turn out to contest the race, both when it was a Principal race first, next a Group 2 and finally a Group 1.
|Year||Winx Stakes Winners|
|2008||Racing To Win|
|2006||Court's In Session|
|1998||What Can I Say|
|1993||Prince Of Praise|
|1959||Up And Coming|