Winx facing a challenge in Warwick Stakes, but she’s not racing Bernborough

One of the best: The mighty Bernborough narrowly won the Chipping Norton Stakes in 1946. Champions, an exclusive club in which the outstanding Winx is seeking entry, can be gained more by worthy defeat than success over Bum of the Month opposition.
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The view arises with what trainer Chris Waller considers additional pressure – keeping her unbeaten and adding to her nine-race winning streak in Saturday’s Warwick Stakes at Randwick.

By no means are Lucia Valentina and Regal Dane a soft touch for Winx, particularly with concern regarding her bone chip operation and lack-lustre recent barrier trial.

But champions can be downed and even gain status, a point stressed by Peter Fenton in Australia’s Forgotten Heroes (Brolga Publishing) centred on the all-time great mare, Flight, and Vic Patrick, one of our most awkward and best boxers.

A Warwick Stakes winner over Katanga in 1944, Flight won 24 out of 65 attempts and was placed 28 times. Experts at the time couldn’t figure whether Katanga, a stallion, had lust or just downright loathing for Flight but when he attempted to savage her it didn’t resemble a love bite.

Anyway, Flight wouldn’t lie down under any circumstances, emphasised by her epic clash with Bernborough, regarded by some as superior to Phar Lap, in the 1946 Chipping Norton at Randwick, a scene set by Fenton.

Racegoers surged up Doncaster Avenue en route to the course. By the first race the attendance was estimated at 40,000 and it grew to 60,000 at clash time with 200 bookmakers catering for them. Bernborough was 7/2 on, Winx odds on Saturday.

“The crowd started to roar as they reached the turn,” Fenton described. “Flight led by two lengths with Bernborough less than three lengths behind …

“Suddenly [jockey Jack] O’Sullivan kicked Flight away and [jockey Athol] Mulley was forced to go for the whip. His mount responded and got within a half-length of the mare but tended to lay in. Flight was relishing the challenge. Mulley was forced to straighten Bernborough and go for the whip again. Throats were burnt hoarse with cheering …

“Lunging on the line, Bernborough won by a long head.”

Patrick, too, was the front runner when he clashed with the American Fred Dawson, a world-class lightweight. None better ever came here. He was gelignite that inflicted destruction with amazing speed from both hands, plus reflexes that enabled him to poke his chin and mouth guard out, drop his hands, and taunt opponents. Wise guys figured it was a mug lair act.

A southpaw, Patrick had little to recommend him, apart from toughness and a mule kick left hand that stopped bigger rivals.

“Many noticed how physically drawn Patrick looked [at the time],” Fenton recalled. “His spindly arms looked leaner than ever. In his summary Bill Corbett (The Sun) suggested ‘his seconds could have entertained themselves knocking off a few xylophone tunes on his ribs’. For some reason he was finding it difficult to keep weight on.

“In round nine and 10 Dawson fought on the back move, his reflexes as fast as round one. In the 11th round Dawson stuck his chin out again and Patrick planted a left on the American’s jaw. Dawson went backwards and stumbled over the bottom rope and out onto the apron of the ring. And the roof of The Tin Shed lifted.

“Dawson got up, clinched and held on to the end of the round.”

What followed was a demolition job, the like of which had never been seen at the Sydney Stadium before or subsequently. “[Trainer] Ernie McQuillan and two ambulance men jumped into the ring to assist the Aussie,” Fenton said. “Now there was silence, hardly anyone attempted to move for three minutes as Patrick remained motionless. Eventually Patrick was helped onto Dawson’s stool. The crowd cheered.”

Referee Joe Wallis later declared he had Patrick in front. Had he survived our Vic would have got the decision.

On Saturday Winx is not up against a Bernborough or Dawson. Still, Lucia Valentina is a group 1 winning mare, and Regal Dane, a worthy sparring partner. The bone chip operation months ago should not be a problem. Inspired had one during his 1984 Golden Slipper campaign and didn’t even leave the stable. And the slack Randwick barrier trial recently was due to Hugh Bowman cuddling her because of a bad surface.

For a good gamble around Winx try a first four: Winx 1, Regal Dane 2, Lucia Valentina 3, Vanbrugh 4.

Play The Randwick Exotics

Parlay: Race 2 – (2) Lie Direct, Race 4 – (4) Derryn, Race 5 – (5) Omei Sword, Race 8 – (6) Dixie Blossoms.

Quadrella: Race 6 – (5) Le Romain, (6) Boss Lane, Race 7 – (6) Winx, Race 8 – (5) Pioneering, (6) Dixie Blossoms, Race 9 – (2) Southern Legend, (3) Haptic.

Early quadrella: Race 2 – (2) Lie Direct, (3) Richard Of Yorke, Race 3 – (8) Grand Rouge, (11) Destined To Win, (13) Akiko Gold, Race 4 – (2) Thonium, (4) Derryn, Race 5 – (1) Calliope, (6) Omei Sword, (7) Quick Feet.

Best box trifecta: Race 3 – (6) Grand Rouge, (11) Destined To Win, (13) Akiko Gold.

Best quinella: Race 6 – (5) Le Romain, (6) Boss Lane.

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