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With a new $5 million purse on offer, the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) has issued thirteen invitations to the world’s best Weight-for-Age gallopers to compete in the 2018 Cox Plate on October 27 at The Valley.

Invitees for the 98th running of the W.S. Cox Plate, sponsored by Ladbrokes, include horses from five separate jurisdictions and from ten of the globe’s leading racing stables.

The opportunity for the world’s best to come to Melbourne to potentially take on the World’s Best Racehorse, Winx, is now there for all to see, with the three-time W.S. Cox Plate champion a likely starter for an unprecedented fourth crown.

All eyes will be on Cracksman over the Royal Ascot Carnival and John Gosden’s entire headlines the invitees with an international rating of 125. The son of Frankel has returned with two Group 1 wins in 2018 in the Prix Ganay and Coronation Cup.

“With the recent $2 million prizemoney injection to our great race for the first time since 2002, we are confident we can entice horses on the world stage to compete at The Valley in what is now the richest Group 1 turf race at 2000 metres in the world,” said Michael Browell, Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO.

“Working with the MVRC Committee and Paul Bloodworth and the team at Racing Victoria, we have identified what we believe to be the best Weight-for-Age horses and we hope they are keen to take on Winx and create a brilliant spectacle,” explained Browell.

Aidan O’Brien knows what it takes to win Australasia’s Weight-for-Age Championship having been the first successful overseas trainer to win the silverware in 2014 with Adelaide, with the champion Irish trainer issued invitations to three of his emerging middle-distance horses. While Lancaster Bomber’s recent Group 1 win in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh was impressive, equally so have been three-year-old’s Mendelssohn, who was a brilliant winner of the Group 2 UAE Derby, and dual Group 1 winner Saxon Warrior.

Fellow European invitees on the MVRC’s invitation list include last start winners in Poet’s Word and Recoletos. The former hails from the Sir Michael Stoute stable in the United Kingdom and is in career best form in 2018 with a second placing in the Group 1 Sheema Classic at Meydan, before a comfortable win at Sandown Park recently. Recoletos is a French stallion who is building an impressive CV for Carlos Laffon-Parias, unbeaten this year including last start at Group 1 level over 1850 metres in the Prix D’Ispahan. French gallopers in Gailo Chop (2015 – finishing 8th) and Vadamos (2016 – finishing 4th) accepted invitations from the MVRC in recent years.

The MVRC’s international strategy continues to try and entice Japanese horses with Club representatives recently visiting Kyoto and Tokyo racedays in May, and as such, the Club has invited four Group 1 winners from Japan. Almond Eye, Epoca d’Oro and Mozu Ascot have all been successful at the highest level in 2018, while Persian Knight took out the 2017 Mile Championship at Kyoto and was narrowly beaten in this year’s Osaka Hai. The only Japanese runner to have ever contested the W.S. Cox Plate previously was Tosen Dandy in 2005, prior to the international invites being introduced in 2012.

Global giant Godolphin is in search of their maiden Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate and Saeed bin Suroor’s United Arab Emirates charges Benbatl and Thunder Snow have earnt invitations in 2018. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum finished third in the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate with the Charlie Appleby trained Folkswood. Both horses have been in career best form in Dubai in the early part of 2018, with Thunder Snow, a son of Helmet, a six-length winner in the Group 1 Dubai Gold Cup over West Coast, while Benbatl has won three of his last four starts including the Group 1 Dubai Turf.

American stallion Yoshida would be the first horse in the history of the W.S. Cox Plate to travel from America to contest ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made’ and rounds out the line-up of invitees. One of the most exciting turf horses in the USA, William Mott’s galloper was a last start winner at Group 1 level at Churchill Downs.

“I am excited by the invitations we have sent out for the 2018 Cox Plate,” said Paul Bloodworth, GM International & Racing Operations at Racing Victoria.

“We have been strategic in our approach, with these horses representing some of the world’s biggest trainers and owners who we would love to see compete in Melbourne. The hard work begins now to interact with the trainers and owners of these horses and entice them to come across and tackle not only the 2018 Ladbrokes Cox Plate, but the other Spring Carnival riches that are strategically placed around the Ladbrokes Cox Plate,” said Bloodworth.

“Quarantine issues unfortunately ruled out inviting some of the stars from Hong Kong, however this is something we are hoping to rectify in the near future.”

Ladbrokes have included all thirteen invitees into their 2018 Ladbrokes Cox Plate markets and rate Cracksman and Benbatl as the most likely to topple the mighty mare Winx – both installed $26 chances on the fourth line of betting.

Six ballot exempt races for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate are run each season and spots in the $5 million field are guaranteed to 2017 Japan Cup winner Cheval Grand, Harlem who won the Australian Cup and ATC Australian Derby victor Levendi. Connections of the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes, Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Stakes winners in the spring will also have the option to contest the race if they choose.

The MVRC will continue to monitor the major racing carnivals around the globe and will issue further invitations if warranted, as was the case with Adelaide winning the Secretariat Stakes in 2014.


Horse Country Trainer Ladbrokes Odds
CRACKSMAN UK John Gosden $26
BENBATL UAE Saeed Bin Suroor $26
ALMOND EYE JPN Sakae Kunieda $41
RECOLETOS FR Carlis Laffon-Parias $41
MOZU ASCOT JPN Yoshito Yahagi $41
POET’S WORD UK Sir Michael Stoute $34
YOSHIDA USA William Mott $41
THUNDER SNOW UAE Saeed bin Suroor $31
EPOCA D’ORO JPN Hideaki Fujiwara $34
PERSIAN KNIGHT JPN Yasutoshi Ikee $41

Japan x4 – USA x1 – United Kingdom x2 – United Arab Emirates x2 – Ireland x3 – France x1

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