Champion US jockey ‘praying’ Hugh Bowman doesn’t relive his heartbreak in Winx farewell


For Smith, the only thing worse than being beaten a furlong in Zenyatta’s final start was being beaten a nose. Despite never looking a hope, she launched from an impossible position – but still missed.

A horse called Blame won by a nose and blame was immediately laid.

“I know how to handle it a lot better, but I’ll never get over it,” Smith tells the Herald. “If I become at ease with it … I’m going to finish second every time.

“I think of different things I could have done or should have done that might have made the difference. I don’t know. I know one thing, I wouldn’t want to finish second again.”

As if by fate, Smith caught up with Winx’s champion jockey Bowman last month. Their paths crossed in Dubai. They spoke about a few things, not least the comparison riding publicly adored horses which win and win and win.

Smith knew Winx’s last start in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the second day of The Championships was nigh – a race which looms as her 33rd straight success.

Bowman is often like the footballer who can play in a dinner suit, the ones without peer for whom everything is effortless. He’s almost untouchable on Winx. Smith’s famous pink bow-tie wouldn’t be out of place.

The American described the Australian as “oozing class, confident and someone that rides that way”.

But when it all goes on the line for the final time?

“I told him I’m praying for a better outcome than I got,” Smith says. “I got beat a nose and I’m praying he draws away and wins while I’m jumping up and down celebrating.

“If you don’t have pressure something is wrong. You embrace it. It just comes with [the job], you have to embrace it. And you enjoy it. All the pressure is on the ground, but once you get on then you’re in some sort of control and it all goes away.”

The comparison between Zenyatta and Winx isn’t confined to their popularity and winning streaks, both are by the same sire in Street Cry. Smith spoke a little to Bowman about what happened to him in Zenyatta’s last race.

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“He said, ‘I hope the fairytale is completed’, which it wasn’t with Zenyatta,” Bowman says. “It is a horse race so we’re very respectful of that.”

On Winx, says Smith: “She’s almost perfection. Everything she does, she’s just so well balanced. Her mechanics are just flawless. She’s a lot like Zenyatta. She doesn’t have the size Zenyatta has, but they both come from the same sire and the same running style with a devastating turn of foot. It’s amazing.

“I don’t care where you’re at or where you’re from, you’ve got to respect and admire her. As the win streak kept building more people have been interested and now I know everyone in the racing world back here will be rooting her on.”

Which will make a pretty good YouTube clip too, one which will be a lot more comfortable to watch.

Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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