Winx and the Midnight Express

In the Eastern time zone of the United States, horse racing shuts down around six o'clock p.m. As night falls, all is quiet on the backstretches from New York to Florida. The horses are asleep, the lights are dimmed, the barns are empty of people except for a nightwatchman patrolling the shed row.

But a few times a year in homes of racing fans up and down the East Coast racing stays up late. There is a familiar tune that can be heard, at least in my mind…“Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me...Let the Midnight Special shine an ever-lovin light on me.”

To us folks in the East, Winx, for the past several years has been our Midnight Special. We either set our alarms to watch her or delay our bedtime to watch her. Yes, come midnight on those few nights, an ever-lovin light shines on American horse racing fans that emanates on the other side of the world in Australia. And each time that light grows brighter and brighter. That is the light that radiates from this amazing Thoroughbred, who has now kept us up for a good portion of her 32-race winning streak.

American racing fans have had their share of equine heroes, from magnificent Triple Crown winners to tough old geldings who stick around for years to brilliant fillies. But Winx is the girl (or boy) you have a crush on from afar and you wish you had a personal relationship with, but knowing very well she or he is unattainable and will never really belong to you.

So American racing fans do the next best thing. They have a brief fling with her during those midnight rendezvous (earlier on the West Coast) and enjoy the times together from afar. One thing you can always count on; she will always show up and make it a memorable night.

Just imagine a horse in this country winning 32 races in a row in top-class company. It is unfathomable. We have a hard time imagining a superstar running 32 times, never mind winning that many times without a defeat. We saw what a filly/mare can do to the hearts of American racing fans when Zenyatta reeled off 19 consecutive wins in top-class company and came oh so close to making it 20 for 20. What if Zenyatta had won that 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic and then came back the following year and made it three straight Classic victories? And then came back yet again the year after and made it four straight Classic victories? The mind cannot even compute such a feat. Well, that’s what Winx basically did by winning the Cox Plate four consecutive years, the last time at age 7 defeating several top-class invaders from Europe.

And guess what, Winx and Zenyatta both were sired by Street Cry. That may be the greatest daughter production since the Bronte sisters.

Even now at the age of 8, with the victories still piling up, Winx remains machine-like in her races with every part working in unison. She is the definition of perfect harmony. And this machine is so easy to operate. You turn on the power switch and it goes. That’s it. It never needs repair, it never needs to be fine-tuned, and it performs its task every time. It is the perfect machine. And yet it is a living breathing creature and vulnerable to having an off day once in a while for any one of a number of reasons. But Winx has proven to be beyond vulnerable. It just is not in her vocabulary if she had one. And that is what makes her machine-like.

But Americans can claim part of Winx, and that is all the American blood that runs through her veins. On her sire’s side you have Mr. Prospector, Halo, Nashua, Hoist the Flag, Raise A Native, and Native Dancer. But some of her strongest attributes she gets from her female family. One of her maternal great-grandsires, Success Express won Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Success Express’ sire Hold Your Peace won the Flamingo Stakes by 10 lengths and was third behind Riva Ridge in the Kentucky Derby. Hold Your Peace was by the tough, sound Elmendorf Farm sire Speak John.

Winx’ other maternal great-grandsire, Voodoo Rhythm, is a half-brother to the great Go For Wand and the top-class stakes winner Dance Spell. Voodoo Rhythm’s dam is the hard-knocking, top-class Obeah, a stakes winner at 2, 4, and 5 and a two-time winner of the Delaware Handicap. Obeah raced 46 times and one of her offspring, Black Powder, raced 118 times, so that is where Winx gets a lot of her toughness to go with the brilliance of a Go For Wand. And if you believe in the Rasmussen Factor (RF), inbreeding to a top-class broodmare, Winx is inbred top and bottom to Natalma through her son Northern Dancer and her daughter Raise the Standard. So you can get Canada in the act as well.

So although Winx is something to be worshipped from afar, many of the attributes that make her so special she gets from us Americans. Forgive us, Aussies, it’s only natural to try to grab on to greatness any way you can.

There aren’t many more late night rendezvous left and the Midnight Special will soon be no more than a faint tune, but here in the U.S. Winx will always be remembered by all those she sent off to sleep happy and for the Vox Populi Award she received. Yes, this 7-year-old Australian mare was named the most popular horse by Americans over our own Triple Crown winner.

That tells you all you need to know about Winx and how far her magic reached out and touched people.

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