Over lunch recently the conversation with my niece, Alex, turned to horse racing. Well, not the racing exactly, but the fun of frocking up and waiting with all the others for the wonderful Winx to stride out onto the track.
‘Why does she keep winning?’ I asked.
‘She’s the fastest and best,’ Alex replied.
I have a different view. She might appear to be the fastest and best, but that is because she takes the lead and is the first past the post.
You might think I am just playing around with words, and that it’s all the same thing – being the best and winning the race. But being the best, or having loads of talent and promise, does not guarantee success. Most of Winx’s competitors are highly capable too, due to their physical size, strength, long stride or a host of other things. Phar Lap, for example, was thought to be a winner due to his unusually large heart. Every competitor has their unique set of gifts.
What is Winx’s advantage? Certainly not her looks – she is of average size and for much of her early life, received little notice. However, she has a high stride rate and can accelerate quickly at any time during the race. This talent was on show during the Doncaster Mile when she weaved through the field around the home turn, dashed through a narrow gap between runners, sped up the rise and raced to the lead.
Anything else? Her trainer, Chris Waller, says she has ‘determination and an amazing will to win’. In that same Doncaster Mile, she drew a wide barrier, carried a big weight and was badly bumped around the 500 metre mark. None of it stopped her. That’s determination. Winx showed that will again when, as Ray Thomas from the Daily Telegraph described it, she turned her head and saw Happy Clapper looming up in the George Main Stakes. She then raced away before easing off for a margin of more than a length.
You might wonder if it is possible for a horse to be sufficiently aware of her surroundings for a winning mindset to have any relevance. Isn’t the jockey meant to be in charge? Certainly jockey Hugh Bowman is a fine rider, but he does concede that his main role is to keep Winx balanced so she can get on with the job. He even dropped his whip during a race earlier this year. It didn’t make any difference, and he doesn’t care to use it anyway. Yep, she knows what it’s all about. Even likes to acknowledge the cheering crowd.
As you can see, Winx has her particular talents, fierce determination and a winning attitude. But is there anything else?
Well, yes. Nobody told her she is just ‘a girl’. Unlike women in our society, Winx is not handicapped by attitudes or stereotypes about belonging in the background, as a follower. Without all that baggage, she is free to be herself, and that’s in the lead. Nor is she aware that frequently, commentators prefer to compare her with other outstanding mares like Black Caviar, rather than mention she is possibility the best race horse, of any gender, on the planet. That’s important, because in the world of humans, females are supposed to know they fit in a lesser category.
You will understand what I mean if you have ever doubted yourself or lost your confidence when a chance to take the lead has come your way. For many of us it is like a tape running in our heads saying: ‘I’m not experienced enough’, ‘others can do it better’ or ‘if I step up I’ll look stupid’. The reasons why women disqualify themselves like this are too many to cover here, but suffice to say, men are far less likely to share our anxieties and crushing fears.
What a different world it would be if all women were like Winx. They would be aware of their own strengths and capabilities. Comparisons with others would have little relevance since we each have a different set of talents. And we would be freer to pursue our own dreams, be the best we can be and make a difference in the world.
So, Alex, winning is an attitude and a state of mind. Grasp the reins and enjoy the ride.