It’s Spring Carnival time in Australia – especially in Melbourne, home of the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s greatest horse race. The news is full of horses, and trainers, and odds, and chances. And one of the chances was Winx. Here’s her profile. She won the Cox Plate last year – and won it again this year, at a canter. Then she was set for the Caulfield Stakes. There were only three horses in the field – nobody wanted to bother with a run they couldn’t win.
Winx has now won 13 races on the trot (if you’ll excuse the pun). That’s not bad for any horse. Even the mighty Phar Lap only won 14 consecutive races, (only) and it’s nowhere near the 25 races won by Black Caviar. Whereas Winx was beaten once (I think) as a filly, Black Caviar never lost a race.
And hand up anyone who can tell me the name of the only horse to win three (3) Melbourne Cups? You at the back there… no, not Phar Lap, Carbine, Peter Pan, Rainlover, Think Big… Makybe Diva. A mare. Her at the top of the page. Bear in mind that the Melbourne Cup is a handicap, so Makybe Diva had to carry more and more weight every time she ran the 3200m race. In her third and last Cup run she carried 58kg – a weight-carrying record for a mare.
So what is the point of all this? Folks, Winx and Black Caviar and Makybe Diva are MARES. Girls. Females. The weaker sex. Black Caviar was the darling of Australia, not just the racing set. As her record of wins increased racetrack attendances were at an all time high every time she ran. Fans turned up wearing her colours – salmon pink with black polka dots. Immediately after her 25th win, her connections retired her. Now, like Makybe Diva, she’s a brood mare and producing very expensive foals. She has her own Facebook page.
I guess it was inevitable that a three-time winner of the Melbourne Cup would be a gelding or a mare. Stallions have won the race twice, but that’s enough profile to guarantee enormous stud fees, and owners don’t want to risk injury. After all, a stallion can cover a *lot* of mares in a season, while a brood mare can only manage one foal a year (at most).
Seems that people are starting to realise that the ladies can make the grade if given the chance. Last year (2015) the Melbourne Cup winner (Prince of Penzance at 100/1 odds) wasn’t female – but the jockey was. Michelle Payne finally broke the jockey’s glass ceiling, putting paid to the myth that women aren’t strong enough to be jockeys. As she said at the time, it’s all about developing an understanding with the horse. The other very special point about the 2015 race was that the horse’s strapper, Michelle’s brother Steven, has Downs Syndrome. Here’s a link to the story.
And while Michelle didn’t get a ride in this year’s cup, (Prince of Penzance was injured and will probably never race again), she won a race on Ladies Day. May she win many more.