The Cox Plate (2040m) is a race for the purists.
It is Australia’s best race, featuring the greatest horses and incredible drama.
For anyone who hasn’t been to a Cox Plate, the atmosphere is something to behold.
Even the staunchest opponent of horse racing would have to be moved by the roar of the crowd as the field thunders down the straight.
This year may not be a great Cox Plate, but it is definitely not the worst by any stretch of the imagination.
It has all the hallmarks of a competitive and intriguing weight for age championship.
Just Horse Racing’s Andrew Hawkins has compiled this preview for readers:
1. EFFICIENT (5)
I love this horse, which surprises me given he was my tip to run last in the 2007 Melbourne Cup! He burnt me that day, but I still really like the horse. Having analysed his leadup to the 2007 Melbourne Cup, I now realise his preparation actually wasn’t that bad! The thing is, he had one start in the blinkers – and that was in the 2007 Cox Plate. He hated them, surprising given he is by Zabeel. Seeing as he isn’t on a Melbourne Cup preparation this time around, you could only expect a better run from him. The query is, does he have the match fitness? And is he going as well as he has in the past? I can’t tip him on top, but he’s the horse that I’ll be cheering. Would be an incredible story if he could get up and win. He’s in my selections nevertheless.
3. WALL STREET (7)
This used to be one of my favourite horses, I loved him. It’s hard to believe I made this horse my third selection last year behind So You Think and More Joyous! This year, I have him rated closer to last. I’ve come to the conclusion that he defies his breeding and is a pure miler – surprising given his sire is Montjeu. His form this preparation has been below what he showed last year. Still, if he doesn’t miss the start this year he may end up in a better position. I’d be very disappointed to see him win given that my faith in him has almost disappeared – but I have to say, it looks very unlikely. Hard to see him even placing really.
4. GLASS HARMONIUM (4)
English import who, for mine, is the forgotten horse of the race. He’s been very good this preparation without winning. He was the run of the race in the Turnbull Stakes, and that day he defeated the likes of Playing God, Rekindled Interest, Efficient and Shamrocker. December Draw started favourite in the Caulfield Cup (but was sadly injured midrace) so there’s obviously a wrap on that form. Moonee Valley should suit too. As long as he doesn’t get into a speed battle with Helmet early, he looks a very nice chance.
5. JIMMY CHOUX (9)
The Kiwi superstar who is attempting to repeat the feats of 1991 Cox Plate winner Surfers Paradise. He has been fantastic this preparation. He was a very game second to subsequent Toorak Handicap winner King Mufhasa in the Makfi Challenge Stakes – one of the best races of this spring carnival on both sides of the Tasman to date – before turning the tables in the Windsor Park Plate. He then recorded a win in the Spring Classic, which in terms of strength was nowhere near the quality of the other two races. He was lacklustre at Breakfast with the Best on Tuesday, but then recorded a sizzling gallop at Flemington on Thursday. I am tipping others but he looks hard to beat.
6. SINCERO (6)
Of all of the horses in this race, he is probably the fairytale – the bargain buy who has come good. He cost only $8000 at the sales! It would be great to see Steve “Crusher” Farley, Chris O’Brien and all the owners win a Cox Plate – I still believe that standing next to Sincero’s owners when he won the Stradbroke was one of my great racing memories. Now, his run at Caulfield was just bizarre. I thought he would run last at the 600m, but somehow he motored late to grab fifth. For me, I have no doubt that he runs the trip. I think the query is Moonee Valley. But if he handles the track, he’s definitely a winning hope. Too much of a query for me to back him with confidence, but I think he’s a definite place chance.
7. LION TAMER (14)
I still think this horse is a potential star, even after his flop last start in the Caulfield Stakes. I don’t think the outside barrier is necessarily a bad thing for Lion Tamer – I expect him to shoot across from the outside to take up a forward position. I’m not sure whether he can win this race, but I expect it will prime him for the Melbourne Cup. No matter where he finishes today, he must be included in Melbourne Cup selections as that is the race for which he is being primed. Furthermore, Flemington and the 3200m will suit him down to the ground. Even still, he has some chance today.
8. PLAYING GOD (13)
West Australian who is always around the mark but struggles to win. For mine, he is not the most genuine of horses, and I don’t think he quite has the class of some of his rivals. Moonee Valley could be interesting, as it seems the sort of track for which he’d be suited – a horse with a short sprint. That said, the wide barrier probably makes it hard for him to race in his favoured position midfield, so he’ll either have to go forward or right back. Too many negatives for me to say he can win, but he could run a place at odds.
9. REKINDLED INTEREST (3)
A very good winner of the AAMI Vase on this day last year, defeating today’s rival and subsequent Derby winner Lion Tamer. He’s only a Group 2 winner, which instantly raises queries – not many horses win this race not having won a Group 1 before. In fact, So You Think’s first Cox Plate may be the only example of this in recent times! However, he’s a Moonee Valley specialist which is a big plus. His trackwork was outstanding on Tuesday, and was the basis of heavy support when the first final field markets came out – he was into $6 after as much as $13 was first offered. For me, I don’t think he’s the classiest horse in the field but his love of Moonee Valley means he cannot be overlooked. In the mix.
10. SHAMROCKER (1)
Australian Guineas and AJC Derby winner who has not shown much this preparation. She was just okay in the Turnbull Stakes, and I think the aim is definitely the Melbourne Cup. Has never performed at Caulfield and I doubt she’ll be suited by Moonee Valley – seems to be a big track horse. The inside may make it difficult too, as she’ll probably get caught in a bottleneck on the home turn. This is not her grand final and I would be very surprised if she placed. Not for mine.
11. PINKER PINKER (11)
Consistent mare who has done very well this campaign. She won the Let’s Elope Stakes, was just as good as King’s Rose when second in the Stocks Stakes and then just no match for Secret Admirer in the Epsom. I’m not a big fan of the horse, but consistency is a gem, especially in mares. Don’t think this is the right race for her but she could possibly run a place. Nevertheless, she’s not one of mine and I won’t be including her.
12. SECRET ADMIRER (8)
Dominant Epsom winner. She’s improving all the time, and although I couldn’t put her in the same boat as Sunline, she seems very similar to where Sunline was at the same stage of their careers. In fact, Sunline was beaten in the Epsom by Allez Suez – a good horse, but hardly dominant. The thing is, Secret Admirer probably has more room for improvement too. If anything, the query will be whether Moonee Valley suits her racing pattern. And that’s a big query. She’ll probably be circling out wide. I have no doubts about her at 2040m, and if she has any luck she’ll be right in the finish.
13. KING’S ROSE (2)
I’ll never forget the day she won the NZ 1000 Guineas. I remember thinking, who is this upstart? I had backed We Can Say It Now after some shrewd Kiwi judges had told me that filly was a superstar – and anyone who saw the race knows she should have won if not for interference caused by the horse that finished second over the line. But as the season went on, and King’s Rose kept winning, it became clear she was a serious horse. I think she had come to the end of her preparation by the time she was beaten at her last two starts last season. This campaign, she’s been great with wins in the Memsie and the Stocks Stakes (the form race of the spring!!) and a second to King Mufhasa in the Toorak. For me, I still think she’ll be better next year and that her best is still short of what is required to win this race. But really, it is very hard to dismiss her.
14. HELMET (10)
Gun three year old who has already won three Group 1’s! In all three Group 1’s, he has led, so it is naturally assumed that he will lead here. And then, it becomes a question of pace. Will something come across and take him on? Will he get his own way in front? It is the intriguing question, and one which I believe will determine the result of the race. There is the obvious query about him at the distance and a speed battle will negate that. Furthermore, he had a setback yesterday which could hamper him. I still think he’s the one to beat, and if he is right and has an ounce of luck he will win. But with that little incident yesterday, I’m going to relegate him to my second pick.
15. AVIENUS (12)
First emergency who got a run with the scratching of Descarado. She ran out of her skin to finish sixth last year, and I think that is about her level. Returned to form last start with a second to Descarado in the Yalumba Stakes. I think she can place at the very best, but good luck to connections. Not many horses run in two Cox Plates, so for this horse to run in two – given she’s probably not a top class horse but a good, consistent mare – is a credit to her trainer.
I originally had Helmet on top, and I still think he’s the one to beat. But this morning, I’ve really warmed to GLASS HARMONIUM. I think he’s the forgotten horse in the race, and I’m now going to tip the English import on top. As I said, HELMET’s the one to beat, but that setback yesterday has me a bit cautious when it comes to him. I couldn’t let EFFICIENT go around without me having something each way on him, and after seeing his trackwork with Midas Touch and his Moonee Valley stats, I’m convinced he may be the fly in the ointment. Fourth, I could go for any one of a number of runners, but I’ll go with JIMMY CHOUX. Next best Lion Tamer and Secret Admirer. I’m a fan of this Cox Plate – can’t wait to see it run in a matter of hours! Good luck with your investments.
4- GLASS HARMONIUM
14 – HELMET
1 – EFFICIENT
5 – JIMMY CHOUX