Where do you begin when you are discussing the WS Cox Plate (2040m). It is the best weight-for-age event in Australia and without doubt the weight-for-age championship of Australasia. Legends are made around the tight Moonee Valley circuit. It is the pinnacle for every jockey, trainer and owner. It is regarded by many as the best two minutes in sport. I have no doubt that will be the case again on Saturday.
The great race was first run in 1922 and won by an imported stallion called Violencello where it was worth a mere 1,000 pounds. As the significance and prestige of this classic event has increased over the years, so has the prizemoney and the 2011 edition is worth $3 million.
There have been so many great moments in regards to this race. Dulcify in 1979 when he streeted his rivals and won by seven lengths to become a champion. Kingston Town winning his third Cox Plate in 1982 after the great Bill Collins uttered those famous words “Kingston Town can’t win” on the home turn. Bonecrusher and Our Waverly Star went tooth and nail in 1986 before the former got the head out and “raced into equine immortality”. In recent times, we have had some absolute stars greet the judge. Sunline, with Greg Childs, scoring an arrogant seven length win in 2000 before we saw ‘The fighting tiger’, Northerly, take out the 2001 and 2002 Cox Plates. But it has been the last two runnings of this race that has made it that little bit more special thanks to So You Think, “another Pharlap”, as described by Nick Hall, rider of Zipping, who finished second to the hulking superstar. He led all the way in 2009 under the guidance of Glen Boss before he scored one of the most devastating wins we have seen in this great race last year.
See, I have blabbered on a bit too much. But it’s hard not to when you are writing up about the Cox Plate. On Saturday, 16 horses (two of them emergencies) will do battle to etch their name into greatness. Will it be the star three year old Helmet, or will the kiwis strike again with Jimmy Choux? Or will Gai Waterhouse claim leg three of the grand slam of Australian racing with the tough warrior Descerado? So many questions, yet they will all be answered at 5.35pm AEDT. Here is my runner by runner preview.
2007 Melbourne Cup winner who is just about back to his best for his grand final this Spring. He was strong first up after two years off in the Underwood before really catching the eye in the Turnbull behind December Draw. Owner Lloyd Williams has been talking this horses chances up all week, saying that he has got the horse in the best shape it has been in for a long time. He has the class, the talent and is fit, but will the eight year old legs get him home? Based on his last start effort, yes.
Dominant winner of the Caulfield Stakes, which was the lead up race for So You Think when he won last year. Now he is under an injury cloud because Waterhouse has told Terry Bailey, chief steward of Racing Victoria, that the horse is “one in five lame in the near side hind”, so that is a slight concern, but Lucas Cranach was under an injury cloud last week and he ran a super race in the Caulfield Cup. I don’t think it is anything to worry about but it isn’t ideal heading into a $3 million race. Should get across and sit on the tempo and be hard to beat if he produces his Caulfield Stakes form.
3. Wall Street
Kiwi who had the wraps on him last year when he came over for this race but performed poorly and despite his Emirates Stakes win, he hasn’t done much since. Ran ok in the Toorak but he had his chance. One positive is that Beadman jumps on board and he won this race in 1996 on Saintly, but a no for me against this field.
4. Glass Harmonium
Irish import who has been fantastic since coming to Australia. Super effort in the Makybe Diva, then again was solid in the Underwood before fighting on like a dog in the Turnbull when going down narrowly to December Draw. Good barrier, Oliver will either lead or sit off Descerado and try and out tough him which won’t be easy. He is in form and looks the ideal Cox Plate horse. Big chance.
5. Jimmy Choux
Potentially, nearly as good as Sunline and Bonecrusher on ability but he needs to put the runs on the board in Australia and I think he will do it here. All three runs this time in have been superb. First up behind King Mufhasa was excellent, top win in at Hastings after that before he scored a very arrogant win in the Spring Classic (2040m) under nil pressure. Not drawn the best but Riddell will take care of that. I think he is the best horse in the race and from all reports he is lapping up Moonee Valley which is so vital. Happy to back him.
To say his run behind Descerado was weird is being nice. 800m out he was off the bit and was going run last, but he picked up late and his last 200m was very good. However, I don’t think he is a Moonee Valley horse as he is a big, hulking type that needs bigger surroundings and clean air, which he won’t get from barrier six. He is a good horse, but not here. If he goes to Flemington, then he’d be hard to beat.
7. Lion Tamer
Victorian Derby winner from last season. Great return first up in New Zealand before producing a barnstorming performance to take out the Underwood. He was a solid favourite at his next outing in the Caulfield Stakes and it was ugly. Sat back and did nothing. Take that run out away and go on his previous form which is very good. Barrier however is a big setback and almost seals his fate.
8. Playing God
He is a money muncher. Just always seems to be thereabouts without winning. Well, that is the case in Melbourne anyway. Fourth in the Makybe Diva, Fifth in the Underwood, Third in the Turnbull and sixth in the Caulfield Stakes. Again, barrier has just about ruled him out as a winning prospect which is a shame because he is a good horse and would have been a first four contender had he drawn a decent gate.
9. Rekindled Interest
All four runs this time in have been excellent. Slashing return in the Aurie’s Star, ridden more forward and weakened late in the Memsie before sitting back and storming home to win the Dato Tan Chin Nam. He then went to the Turnbull and he cruised up at the 400m but he sort of just whacked away over the final furlong. He excels at Moonee Valley and at the distance, but if you like, you would have hoped that he had done a tad more last start. In saying that, he is a must for exotics.
AJC Derby winner getting the miles in the legs for the the $6 million two mile race at Flemington. Good return in the Memsie before being a major flop in the Underwood but she bounced back with an eye catching run in the Turnbull, weaving her way through the pack late. If you like her, don’t back her here. Wait until she gets to Flemington.
11. Pinker Pinker
In form mare that deserves a crack at this race. Impressive winner of the Let’s Elope, she then went down narrowly to King’s Rose in the Stock Stakes before running a super second to Secret Admirer in the Epsom. She’ll get the journey, she’ll be ridden back with some cover, I think the $31 is crazy for a horse of her talent. I wouldn’t rule her out.
12. Secret Admirer
Her four runs back after a long spell have been very good. Went down narrowly in the Toy Show and Tramway before being a disappointment in the Shannon. She backed up seven days later and thanks to a gem ride from Brenton Avdulla, she kicked clear and won the Epsom in good style. Because of the rise in the straight at Randwick, the 1600m does seem like 2000m so I think the distance isn’t a concern. She has a turn of foot when it’s needed and she looks to have a little bit of upside to her. Definite hope.
13. King’s Rose
Haven’t really been in her corner since coming to Australia. Narrow wins in the Memsie and the Stock Stakes weren’t that impressive, but I thought she was a tad unlucky in the Toorak behind King Mufhasa. She had trouble getting clear on the home turn and wasn’t allowed to wind up. The Cox Plate is a different race in the way that the pressure will be on from the start and even though barrier two might seem perfect, I feel that she may get cluttered up between runners and this time she won’t getting clear because she is up against the big boys. Good mare, but I’ll pass here.
The boom youngster with the world at his feet if successful here. Very erratic galloper in Sydney but once he came to Melbourne town, he has just been fantastic in both the Guineas Prelude and the Caulfield Guineas, especially the latter where he led at a fast tempo and fought on courageously to record what I thought was the best win in the races history. He actually turns three on Friday as he was born on 21/10/2008. Barrier is a slight concern, but he should get a drag across courtesy of Descerado. Is he tough enough? I think so. Can he run 2040m? I think so. Can he win it? Not sure. Question marks do surround him, so I think he doesn’t deserve the tag as favourite, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he bolted in because he does appear to be a chestnut version of Octagonal given they both know where the line is.
Finished second in the Caulfield Stakes, but I think that race was run to suit horses near the fence so I question the performance of the second, third and fourth horses in the race. She does race well at Moonee Valley and ran a super race here last year, but the barrier ends her chances.
Three time group one winner. Had little luck in the Toorak last start but she did hit the line well to finish seventh. In saying that, this is a Cox Plate and she will definitely struggle if she gains a start
The kiwi champ Jimmy Choux on top for me. The two runs that have made him a champion in my eyes are his win in the Rosehill Guineas, where he had no right to win off the back of a very slow pace yet ran past them like Bonecrusher, and his last start win at Hastings, where he won under a hold from Riddell. If he brings that sort of form on Saturday, he’ll go very close to winning. Very cautious about Pinker Pinker and Secret Admirer. I think they are both good odds and can be somewhere in the mix with the right run and Descerado is as tough as nails and will keep fighting on right to the line. Don’t rule out Efficient, Glass Harmonium and Rekindled Interest either. What a race it will be!