on air now

Is Winx the GOAT? Not so fast says sports historian


Winx is a titan of Australian sport, transcending the track in the same way that Tigers Woods has the golf course, or Michael Jordan has the court. The wonder mare said farewell to the racing world on Saturday afternoon in the style which has elevated her into the history books while endearing her to the nation

By winning. Again.

Her Queen Elizabeth Stakes victory in front of 42,000 jubilant punters crammed into Royal Randwick was her 33rd consecutive win and a world record 25th Group 1, breaking her own benchmark. The Queen of the track has accumulated nearly $25.5 million in prize money but the joy, the excitement, and the pure elation she brings to the punters is priceless.

Superlatives roll off the tongue for Winx and the achievements of this special horse lead most to declare the boldest of claims:

Winx is the greatest horse of all time.

It’s an understandable claim to make considering the breadth of her achievements but sports historian Geoff Armstrong isn’t convinced.

“When you’re looking at horses like Carbine, Phar Lap, Bernborough, Shannon, Tulloch, Kingston Town, Black Caviar, Makybe Diva – they are truly great horses in the same way Winx is a truly great horse,” Geoff explains to David Morrow and Mat Thompson.

“I don’t want to knock Winx because she’s extraordinary… but it is true in 21st century horse racing, Black Caviar in Australia and Frankel overseas have demonstrated that it is possible, if you look after your horse and you stick to to the races that it suits, you can compile a remarkable unbeaten record.

“[Winx] has had three or four runs in the Autumn, three or four runs in the spring, and because of running she’s always running over the distances that suit, and because she’s a superstar and she’s too good for everyone else, she never gets beat.”

Armstrong argues that winning races over distances considered ‘out of your comfort zone’ is a better measure for true greatness than an unbeaten streak and that Winx’s incredible unbeaten record of 33 wins on the trot is, in part, influenced by the fact that she’s never run over distances which don’t suit her perfectly.

“It is also true that if you look at the careers of the true champions of the past, they have extraordinary beaten streaks as well, those streaks are usually broken when they move out of their comfort zone and because they move out of their comfort zones – Kingston Town ran in two Melbourne Cups – they don’t last as long as Winx did, so they don’t have an opportunity to have an unbeaten streak of 20 or 30 races” he said.

One of the criticisms leveled at Winx, usually by northern hemisphere racing snobs who refuse to acknowledge the greatness of an antipodean champion, is that she hasn’t consistently beaten the world’s top horses, the best of the best. Armstrong shares this view to a degree.

“That’s probably the great tragedy for me of Winx, and it struck home for me when I watched it beat a group 3 horse from Japan by two lengths on the weekend, that we’ve never had that great race,

“Winx – and it’s no fault of Winx’s, has been really good horses like Happy Clapper and Hartnel, they’re not superstars, those horses,

“The only disappointment for me in regards to Winx, in regards to Black Caviar, in regards to Frankel, is they never moved out of their comfort zone.”

Click PLAY to hear Geoff Armstrong explain why he’s hesitant to brand WINX the greatest of all time.