racing world is shrinking. We have seen horses from Europe come to the United
States on a regular basis for years and win our top turf races, and on occasion
top dirt races. This year alone we saw the sensational filly Enable become the
first horse to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Breeders' Cup Turf in the
same year, and we also saw the Irish-trained Mendelssohn go to Dubai and win
the UAE Derby by a staggering 18 1/2 lengths and then make an unprecedented six
transatlantic trips in 2018, running in the Kentucky Derby, and then finishing
on the board in the Travers Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Cigar Mile, and Dwyer
Stakes, and also finishing a respectable fifth, beaten only four lengths, in the
Breeders' Cup Classic after setting a rapid pace. And he made his first
transatlantic trip last fall, winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
that bridge between the U.S. and the rest of the world expanded to 10,000 miles
this year, not from a foreign horse's heroics on an American racetrack, but
because of what a remarkable mare from Australia was able to accomplish in the
minds and hearts of American racing fans.
Secretariat Vox Populi Award, created by Secretariat's owner Penny Chenery in
2010, annually recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best
resounded with the general public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred
racing. With approximately 80% or higher of the votes coming from the States
each year, it was not a surprise that the award had been won every year by an
American horse ... until now.
thought of a 7-year-old Australian mare being more popular with American racing
fans than the undefeated Triple Crown winner boggles the mind, and made the Vox
Populi Award truly a global award, expanding horizons even Penny Chenery
couldn't have dreamed of.
just how did Winx, winner of all seven of her starts in 2018, including her
fourth consecutive victory in the prestigious Cox Plate, bridge such a wide
chasm, especially with her races being run at approximately 1-2 a.m. in many
parts of the U.S.? How did she beat out Triple Crown winner Justify in America
by 11 percentage points? In short, how did she manage to win this award with
only 6% of the votes coming from Australia?
Murray Johnson, who trained in America for 20 years, saddling Perfect Drift to
a number of major stakes victories and earnings of more than $4.7 million
before moving back to Australia several years ago, hit the proverbial nail on the
is surprising that she would win," he said. "I think it shows how the internet
has changed things. Winx is a freak and (trainer) Chris Waller and his team
have done an amazing job to keep the streak going. My list of great horses I've
seen race grows longer and Winx is right up the list."
demonstrate the following Winx had in the States, seconds after one of her
victories, Twitter would light up with congratulations, despite the hour. Many
would just post Winx's name in capital letters followed by numerous exclamation
points, while others would express their joy with an array of superlatives.
Aug. 17, at 1:08 a.m. ET, immediately following Winx's victory in the Winx
Stakes, TVG, which televised Winx's races live, posted the following tweet:
"#WINX makes history with 26 consecutive wins in the race named in her honor."
That tweet remains TVG's top tweet of the year in analytics with 888 likes and
327 retweets, according to senior producer Becky Witzman-Somerville.
is a mare who Americans never saw in person, racing in a country we have little
connection with. We witnessed a similar worldwide affection several years ago
for the great Australian sprinter Black Caviar. And Winx has been able to build
on that, especially competing in major distance races and displaying a late
burst of speed that was unlike anything seen before.
provided one example of her spectacular closing punch. "For any horse to break
44 seconds for the last 800 meters of a 2,000-meter race while running 1,200-meter,
1,000- meter, 800-meter, 400-meter, and 200-meter splits faster than the group
2 1,200 meter race run that same day was truly remarkable. She did that in the
Turnbull Stakes, the race before the Cox Plate."
are well aware of Winx's extraordinary talent and her astounding 29-race
winning streak, surpassing Black Caviar's 25-race winning streak. But that
isn't what the Vox Populi Award is all about. It is more about popularity,
combined with achievement and the impact a horse has on the sport itself. After
all, Vox Populi means "Voice of the People." The 2011 winner, Rapid Redux, won
22 consecutive races, 19 of them coming the year he won the award, but he
competed mostly in low-level claiming races around the Mid-Atlantic region. His
nationwide popularity enabled him to beat out top-class fillies Goldikova and
Havre de Grace for the award.
this is the first time the Vox Populi Award went far beyond nationwide
popularity. Perhaps this was the American public expressing their feelings
about horses remaining in training for a number of years and rewarding Winx and
her owners, Magic Bloodstock, Debbie Kepitis, and
for keeping her in training for so long and racing at the highest level, well
beyond anything we normally see in America for a non gelding.
Tighe of Magic Bloodstock, who will be at Santa Anita Jan. 12 to accept the
award along with Kepitis and a representative of the Treweeke family, said, "We are
excited and thrilled to win the Vox Populi Award. Winx has truly been an
amazing horse to all of us that have been involved with her since the day we
bought her. We are truly humbled and honored, firstly to have been nominated.
But then to actually win is something else."
added, "We, as the lucky connections of
this mighty mare Winx, are excited that the general population as well as
worldwide racing fans voted her as the Secretariat Vox Populi Award winner. We
are humbled that Winx is so loved around the world and thrilled that people
were captivated by her remarkable feats and will to win."
for the first time in the brief history of the Vox Populi Award, we have the
internet serving as a pipeline stretching all the way to Australia. This now
opens a whole new avenue for the award, bringing an awareness of equine heroes
from far-off lands we might never have known much about.
Winx raced solely in Australia, her persona and her remarkable feats resonated
all the way to America, thanks to the Vox Populi Award and the powerful aura
she was able to emit. As a result, she is now part of American racing, showing
that heroes need not be seen in the flesh if their spirit can be felt halfway
around the world.