While Winx’s preparation is similar to springs past, the nerves have intensified for part-owner Debbie Kepitis.
Kepitis is always anxious ahead of the first race of any Winx campaign but the feeling is particularly acute as the champion mare lines up for Saturday’s Group Two Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
For the second year in a row, Winx was the inevitable star of the NSW Racehorse Owners Association awards on Thursday night for Kepitis and her fellow owners Peter Tighe and Richard Treweeke.
Already cemented as a current-day marvel, Winx is now trying to reach heights few have in two centuries of Australian racing.
“It’s changed in the fact that there’s so much more expectation,” Kepitis told AAP.
“The first spring after she’d won her first Group One (Queensland Oaks), it was just complete and utter hope and wondering what she could achieve.
“Coming into Saturday, I’m very nervous. It’s racing and anything can happen.”
Kepitis holds trainer Chris Waller in high esteem and his decision to take Winx to Queensland after she was beaten in the 2015 Australian Oaks reignited her career and began the winning streak which stands at 17.
“He has amazing systems and that is the crunch of his success,” Kepitis said.
“He doesn’t let the smallest thing go wrong.
“I’ve had trainers tell me that if the horse wasn’t with Chris Waller, some might have gone too early and not let her grow into herself, or otherwise over-raced her when she started to show something.”
Punters have no doubts about Winx extending her winning streak, with the mare at $1.07 on Friday to defend the race named for Kepitis’ father Bob Ingham.
Only four horses including Black Caviar have won 18 consecutive races, including at least one at metropolitan level, in the history of Australasian racing.
But well-schooled by her experience owning horses and watching her father and uncle Jack race star horses Octagonal and Lonhro, Kepitis understands short odds guarantee nothing.
“She’s the best horse in the race but that doesn’t mean something can’t go wrong,” she said.
“You have to be a realist. If you’re a racing person, you’re a realist or else you shouldn’t be in the game.”
Her husband Paul shares the sentiment.
“We’ll see how far the ride takes us before we’re back watching a maiden at Kembla,” he said.
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