A gallant Happy Clapper has made Winx work for her latest record-setting feat in the Chipping Norton Stakes but she has no peer and simply eased past him to claim a 23rd Group One win.
The crowds lining the Randwick straight on Saturday gave her a reception befitting her status as the world’s best when Hugh Bowman shook her reins and told her the winning post was near.
She is probably more aware than any other horse exactly where that is, having reached it first 35 times, the past 31 in a row.
Her fourth Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) equals the run of Tie The Knot from 1999-2002 and she now stands alone at the top of the Group One tree after passing European jumper Hurricane Fly.
“This horse is a, I say, once in a generation but maybe she’s a once in history,” Bowman said.
“She’s really that special.”
In another era, the popular Happy Clapper and his equally popular trainer Pat Webster, would be hailed as champions, especially over the Randwick mile.
“Its probably one of his best runs ever outside of winning the Doncaster,” Webster said.
“Hughie was just kidding. The only time at the 600 his elbows were going and then he was just kidding after that.”
Blake Shinn took the gelding to the front and stretched his lead to six lengths coming to the turn, laying down the gauntlet to Winx who was moving up from midfield.
She strode past majestically but Happy Clapper didn’t give up, finishing 1-3/4 lengths second with a gap of 3-3/4 lengths to third-placed Unforgotten.
“It’s another race record here this afternoon,” Bowman said.
“I know the race hasn’t been run at Randwick too often but I’ll be surprised if they go quicker than that (1:33.27s) for a long time.
“I must admit, if I was on any other horse I probably would have given up hope but she’s just an amazing athlete.”
As Winx nears the end of her career, her trainer Chris Waller is just trying to enjoy the last moments but the nerves are still there.
And Winx tested his nerves when she got a bit agitated in the barrier and then had to stand still while Libran was backed out and inspected.
“I thought it would do her the world of good to tell you the truth. She can be like that at the start of a prep,” he said.
“It did her good to stand there afterwards. No cotton wool treatment – we wouldn’t expect any.”
Waller pad tribute to Happy Clapper who received a warm reception as he came back to the enclosure.
“It was certainly no easy feat,” he said.
“I thought Winx would either beat him if they go too slow or they go too fast. I’d say they almost got it right. Under pressure she is very good.
“It was a good test for her and will bring her on nicely for the next couple of runs.”
Winx will run next in the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill in three weeks before her farewell in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 13.
Happy Clapper will head to Melbourne to run in the $5 million All-Star Mile at Flemington on March 16.
Shinn, who has won three Group One races on Happy Clapper, is among those in awe of Winx.
“What can I say about my horse?” he said.
“He put up a Group One-winning performance but there are no superlatives you can say about the winner.
:She just a freak and she had to put up a freakish performance to beat Happy Clapper.”