The MVRC searched far and wide in issuing Club invitations for the world’s best middle-distance Weight-for-Age stars to contest the $5 million Cox Plate at The Valley on October 26 in Melbourne, Australia.
2019 COX PLATE INTERNATIONAL INVITES:
|ALMOND EYE||JPN||Sakae Kunieda||$9|
|BENBATL||UAE||Saeed bin Suroor||$11|
|BEST SOLUTION||UAE||Saeed bin Suroor||$21|
|CRYSTAL OCEAN||UK||Sir Michael Stoute||$15|
|INDY CHAMP||JPN||Hidetaka Otonashi||$17|
|ZABEEL PRINCE||UK||Roger Varian||$26|
Global superstar Almond Eye headlines five elite Japanese contenders invited to take up the challenge to the local brigade over 2040 metres. An eye-catching third in last Sunday’s Group 1 Yasuda Kinen, the four-year-old mare is a five-time Group 1 winner from just nine starts. Almond Eye won the Group 1 Duabi Turf in March, a race last year won by fellow 2019 Cox Plate invitee Benbatl, who may be back for redemption without the current World’s Best Racehorse and four-time champion Winx to chase down.
“The W.S. Cox Plate has long been renowned as ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made’ and with $5 million in prizemoney elevating the race to the world’s richest Group 1 2000 metre turf race, we’re working to assemble a race for the ages and to write a new chapter in the history books,” said Michael Browell, Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO.
“Winx has undoubtedly helped elevate the status of our legendary race overseas and without her presence this year the invitations will be made even more attractive to connections of these star international horses.”
Having worked with Racing Victoria to identify suitable candidates for the race, invited horses will have all expenses covered by the Moonee Valley Racing Club if they choose to travel to Australia.
The MVRC has continued its pursuit in targeting Japanese runners and as such have issued invitations to four Group 1 winners from the jurisdiction. Apart from Almond Eye, Group 1 winners Aerolithe, Indy Champ and Kiseki have been invited, while a name familiar to Australian racegoers will be Kluger who finished a brave second to Winx in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes in April. The only Japanese runner to have ever contested the W.S. Cox Plate previously was Tosen Dandy in 2005, prior to the international invitations being introduced in 2012.
Global giant Godolphin have been relentless in their desire to win Australia’s Weight-for-Age championship and have been in the placings the past three years with Benbatl, Folkswood and Hartnell. The Saeed bin Suroor stable is the only team to be issued multiple invitations with familiar names in Benbatl, who is yet to race since finishing second in the 2018 W.S. Cox Plate, as well as 2018 Caulfield Cup winner Best Solution. The blue army’s progressive stallion Ghaiyyath from the Charlie Appleby stable, a winner of four of his six starts including the recent Group 2 Prix D’Harcourt at Longchamp, has also been invited.
Aidan O’Brien was not only the first International trainer to win the W.S. Cox Plate in 2014 with Adelaide, but the last trainer to win the race since Chris Waller and Winx’s four year reign. Having returned in 2015 to finish third with Highland Reel, this year the Irish mastermind trainer could return with Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Magical.
With the highest international rating of 125, other European representation could come from Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean who, to go with his Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes win, has finished second to world champions Cracksman and Enable. Fellow English trainer Roger Varian has also been invited to contest the race with last start Group 1 winner Zabeel Prince who scored stylishly in the Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp.
“The MVRC’s international strategy was first introduced in 2013 in an effort to attract the best possible field of ten-furlong thoroughbreds to compete at The Valley and since the introduction of international invitations nine horses have taken up the challenge ,” said Paul Bloodworth, GM International & Racing Operations at Racing Victoria.
“Racing Victoria plays a role in helping the Club identify suitable horses and building relationships with these owners around the globe to entice them to compete throughout the Spring Racing Carnival”
“I’m confident the Club has positioned itself well to attract the best international competition and the countdown is well and truly on to the 2019 Ladbrokes Cox Plate”.
Ladbrokes have included all eleven invitees into their 2019 Cox Plate odds and rate Almond Eye and Benbatl as the strongest contenders – Almond Eye installed a $9 chance, while Benbatl is an $11 chance.
Six ballot exempt races for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate are run each season and spots in the $5 million field are guaranteed to 2018 Japan Cup winner Almond Eye (invited), Harlem who won back-to-back Australian Cups and ATC Australian Derby victor Angel of Truth. Connections of the Feehan Stakes (previously named Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes), Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Stakes winners in the spring will also win their way into the final field 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.