10/24/2016 12:25PM

Sparkman: Winx makes her case as world's best in 2016

SDP Media
Winx won his 13th consecutive race Saturday in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley Racecourse.

Who is the best racehorse in the world in 2016?

With a decisive Breeders’ Cup just around the corner in November, most Americans would probably nominate California Chrome, who has galloped unbeaten and basically unchallenged through his six starts this year. For Europeans, the most likely answer would be Almanzor, who beat Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found in both the Champion Stakes at Ascot last week and the Irish Champion Stakes a few weeks previously at Leopardstown.

For visual impact combined with quality of competition, however, it may be hard for any performance anywhere in the world to top the stunning eight-length victory last Saturday of Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate, Australia’s most prestigious weight-for-age race. The Cox Plate was Winx’s 13th consecutive victory and her 17th in 23 career starts, a record that includes nine Group 1 victories, including another victory last year in the Cox Plate, which is run over a little more than 10 furlongs around the unique, perpetually turning Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne.

Remarkably, Winx’s 13-race win streak is only the second longest for a daughter of her sire, Street Cry, whose Zenyatta, of course, won the first 19 of her 20 career starts. Winx and Zenyatta, however, could hardly be more different in both physical makeup and racing style.

Zenyatta stands almost 17 hands and was notoriously slow out of the starting gate, habitually trailing her fields through the first half of her races before launching an irresistible rally in the final quarter mile.

As can be readily seen in the video of the Cox Plate, the medium-sized Winx is a classic pace stalker who breaks eagerly with her field, rates kindly, and then blows away the opposition with her finishing speed. Unlike Zenyatta, she is quite capable of setting her own pace when the others simply can’t go fast enough to suit her in the early furlongs.

Winx, who has now earned more than $7 million, is no worse than the second best of Street Cry’s 115 stakes winners, six champions, and 19 Group 1 or Grade 1 winners, but the rest of Winx’s pedigree is much less familiar to American readers. Winx is half-sister to Australian Group 3 winner El Divino, by Snitzel, and her dam, Vegas Showgirl, was a stakes winner in her native New Zealand, but her sire is Al Akbar, an obscure name in contemporary international pedigrees. Al Akbar, however, was one of the best sons of 1987 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Success Express, by Hold Your Peace, who was a very successful sire in the Antipodes. A Group 1 winner himself, Al Akbar was a moderately successful sire in New Zealand.

The rest of Winx’s pedigree follows a similar pattern that is familiar to those who follow Australian and New Zealand racing. Voodoo Rhythm, the sire of her second dam Vegas Magic, was a non-stakes-winning full brother to the very good American racehorse and good but short-lived sire Dance Spell, by Northern Dancer, out of top racemare and broodmare Obeah, by Cyane. Vegas Magic also is the dam of the Group 3-placed filly Black Magic Maggie, by Westminster, but Winx’s third dam, Vegas Street, by leading New Zealand sire Sovereign Edition, produced nothing of note. The female line has been resident south of the equator for more than 100 years and also produced the New Zealand and Australian champion El Khobar who placed in stakes in California in the 1950s but cut little ice at stud in America.

As relatively sparse as it may be in more recent generations, the pedigree of Winx, anchored by her great sire, is better than that of her two current challengers for the title of world’s best racehorse. California Chrome’s lineage, by Lucky Pulpit out of Love the Chase, by Not for Love, is famously plebeian, and that of Almanzor is just as unfamiliar as most of Winx’s six cross. As we reported a few weeks ago, Almanzor is the only stakes winner from the first crop of Wootton Bassett, a French champion 2-year-old with an unimpressive pedigree who attracted little patronage at stud.

At the moment, there are no form lines to connect the best performances of Winx, California Chrome, and Almanzor, and, though all three are expected to stay in training through at least the first few months of 2017, that seems unlikely to change.

A possible, but unlikely, trip to Royal Ascot has been mooted for Winx, and that prestigious meeting’s Prince of Wales Stakes seems a likely target for Almanzor. That, of course, also was the race targeted for California Chrome during his ill-fated

English sojourn in 2014.

We can dream, can’t we?