SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — MARCH 03: Hugh Bowman hugs one of Winx's owners, Debbie Kepitis after winning race 6 on Winx in the Chipping Norton Stakes during Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse on March 3, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — MARCH 03: Hugh Bowman hugs one of Winx's owners, Debbie Kepitis after winning race 6 on Winx in the Chipping Norton Stakes during Sydney Racing at Royal Randwick Racecourse on March 3, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Winx interest: $230,000 to a cool $16 million

DEBBIE Kepitis will never forget the moment her life changed in the space of around 200 seconds.

On that day, in January 2013, Kepitis - the daughter of legendary racing owner Bob Ingham - and her two co-owners, Peter Tighe and Richard Treweeke, agreed to pay $230,000 at the Magic Millions Sales on the Gold Coast for a striking daughter of Street Cry after a spirited bidding war.

The filly wasn't the only horse they had on their shortlist they had worked through with trainer Chris Waller and bloodstock agent Guy Mulcaster.

Tighe, whose turn it was to bid at that sale, had already "lost out" on three yearlings, but their collective attention turned swiftly to Lot 329.

"She passed all of my criteria, she got onto my list and she got onto my shortlist," Kepitis said. "She had the right look in her eye, she had the right colouring (Kepitis is not especially keen on chestnuts or horses with white socks) and she was a good walker."

Tighe's bid of $210,000 seemed to have secured the filly for him, Kepitis and Treweeke before another bidder upped the ante by an extra $10,000. Against an earlier limit, Tighe went back with one more bid to try and secure the filly.

Kepitis recalled the tension: "We had (already) gone further than we had been expecting to go, but you have to be realistic. We had lost out and it was a matter of 'we have to secure one', but you don't want to be stupid about it. We did question whether or not to have another bid. Luckily, we didn't have to."

Jockey Hugh Bowman and part-owner Debbie Kepitis with their leading lady. Picture: Simon Bullard
Jockey Hugh Bowman and part-owner Debbie Kepitis with their leading lady. Picture: Simon Bullard

The underbidder flinched, and let the horse go. That moment will likely haunt the unnamed person forever, wondering if an extra $10,000 might have secured the yearling filly who turned out to be one of the world's best horses, Winx.

Five years, and almost two months on, that underbidder will have watched Winx's 23rd successive win on Saturday - yet another blistering arrogant performance to win the Chipping Norton Stakes.

It took her prizemoney earnings almost to the cusp of $16 million. Not a bad investment on the $230,000 outlay. The six-year-old's continued worth as a racehorse and as a future broodmare will run into many more millions over time.

"If anyone tells you they knew what was about to happen, they are lying," Kepitis said. "We hoped she would stand up and be a Saturday (class) horse. I've had a few of them over the years who have looked like that and have ended up being country (standard) at best."

The filly who would one day be called Winx - a daughter of shuttle stallion Street Cry out of the broodmare Vegas Showgirl - came into the world on September 14, 2011 at Coolmore Stud in the NSW Hunter Valley.

Stud manager Peter O'Brien, who had helped client John Camilleri purchase Vegas Showgirl for $455,000 in 2008, described it as "an uneventful birth". Within 10 minutes the bay filly was on her feet, seemingly ready to run. "She wasn't a big foal, but she had a beautiful action when she galloped around the paddock," O'Brien recalled.

Hugh Bowman gives the mighty mare at pat. Picture: Getty Images
Hugh Bowman gives the mighty mare at pat. Picture: Getty Images

As breeding pragmatism would have it, Camilleri planned to sell the early foals until his broodmare produced a good horse.

That opportunity came at the 2013 Magic Millions sale on the Gold Coast, and it was Treweeke, who came up with the name of the now three-time Cox Plate winner soon after.

"We liked the simplicity of the one word (name), and it was like 'OK, we will go with this one'," Kepitis said.

Treweeke was more colourful when he said: "Well, she's out of a mare called Vegas Showgirl … and if you've ever been to Vegas and go to see a couple of shows you realise there's some pretty good sorts up there … If you like them, you wink … and if she likes you she winks back!'"

Saturday's win was the mighty mare's 16th Group 1 success, overtaking Black Caviar in terms of success at the highest level. She is now only two more victories off Black Caviar's streak of 25 wins, albeit that Black Caviar was never beaten.

The world remains Winx's oyster with a decision to come later in the month if she heads overseas to race internationally, or stays at home for an unprecedented fourth tilt at the Cox Plate.

Whatever happens, that unfortunate underbidder must endure the agony of their near-miss for some time to come.

Hugh Bowman returns to scale on Winx after they combined to win the Chipping Norton Stakes.
Hugh Bowman returns to scale on Winx after they combined to win the Chipping Norton Stakes.