The Moonee Valley Racing Club has searched far and wide in issuing eight invitations to the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate as it aims to maintain the Weight-for-Age classic’s mantelpiece as the Longines World’s Best Race on Turf.
World racing’s leading names in Aidan O’Brien, Godolphin and the current Hong Kong Horse of the Year headline an impressive international wish list for The Valley’s signature $3M Ladbrokes Cox Plate race on October 28.
2015 Cox Plate placegetter Highland Reel and last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up Scottish will be familiar names to local racegoers, while the John Moore trained Werther has taken all before him in Hong Kong under the steering of dual Cox Plate winning rider Hugh Bowman. If Werther were to make the trip he would be seeking another rider given Bowman’s iron-clad ties to Winx, with the connections of the superstar mare and Longine’s World’s Best Turf Horse confirming their intentions to attempt to win a third W.S. Cox Plate and equal the record set by the immortal Kingston Town in 1980-1982.
“The Club has once again sought to invite the world’s premier middle distance weight-for-age horses and working in conjunction with Racing Victoria’s International Agent Leigh Jordon we are confident we have identified horses that may be attracted by our lucrative prizemoney and incentives,” said Michael Browell, Moonee Valley Racing Club CEO.
“The recent global recognition of the W.S. Cox Plate undoubtedly helped us market our race to international connections, but there is no denying the two-sided effect Winx can have on the race,” explained Browell.
The MVRC’s international strategy has seen invitations, which covers all costs associated with transporting horses, trainers, jockeys and connections to Melbourne for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, find their way to five countries including Great Britain, France, Japan, Hong Kong and Ireland.
Three invitations have been issued to Great Britain connections, including two for the all powering Godolphin empire hoping to capture their first win in ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made.’ While last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up Scottish is hoped to return for the Charlie Appleby stable, Godolphin counterpart Richard Fahey and his recent Group 1 Lockinge Stakes winner Ribchester is the second of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s invited gallopers. Decorated Knight, who has returned with two Group 1 wins in 2017 at Dubai and most recently in Ireland, is the third English invitee from the Roger Charlton stable.
After the appearance of Vadamos and Gailo Chop in recent editions of the Cox Plate, French gallopers remain on notice with Al Shaqab Racing’s Mekhtaal approached by the MVRC, a last start Group 1 winner in the Prix D’Ispahan.
Japan remains a focal point of the Club’s interest and have identified last start Group 1 QEII Cup winner Neorealism as a suitable contender. The six-year-old stallion defeated Werther, Pakistan Star and Australian hopeful The United States in Hong Kong and in doing so enhanced his international classification to 119. One of the countries rising stars Makahiki also caught the eye of scouts with an impressive CV of five wins from nine starts, including the Japanese Derby, and has been installed the shortest price of the overseas contingent with Ladbrokes at $13.
Aidan O’Brien knows what it takes to the win the W.S. Cox Plate having prepared the first international winner Adelaide in 2014 and his globetrotting superstar Highland Reel has been invited to tackle Australasia’s Weight-for-Age Championship once again. Having finished third behind Winx and Criterion in 2015, Highland Reel went on to register Group1 triumphs in Hong Kong, England and the United States and holds the highest International Rating of his fellow invitees at 123 – Winx is currently rated 132.
John Moore has also had an invitation sent his way for the second consecutive year for Hong Kong Horse of the Year, Werther. The New Zealand bred gelding has followed on his fabulous 2015/16 season with Group 1 wins in the Hong Kong Gold Cup and the Standard Chartered Champions and Chater Cup, ridden by Hugh Bowman on both occasions. Moore conceded last season that travelling the five-year-old in 2017 was a strong consideration.
With five ballot exempt races to the W.S. Cox Plate, Japan Cup winner Kitasan Black, Humidor from his Australian Cup triumph and ATC Derby winner Jon Snow currently hold their place in the field. Winners of the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes, Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Stakes are also guaranteed a start should they wish to take their place.
“In conjunction with the MVRC we have worked hard to capture horses in peak Group 1 winning form from each of the major racing jurisdictions who represent some of the world’s biggest stables and thoroughbred owners,” said Racing Victoria’s International Agent, Leigh Jordon.
“We will continue to monitor the major racing carnivals around the globe and where we see fit may issue further invitations to those we believe warrant it,” added Jordon.
Coincidently, it wasn’t until Adelaide’s breathtaking win in the Secretariat Stakes in August that year that prompted a late invitation from the MVRC, while Highland Reel was awarded the same privilege in 2015.
A trip to Melbourne for the W.S. Cox Plate can mean horses who aren’t ultimately successful in their main goal can go on to target other races on the Spring Racing Carnival calendar. Gailo Chop would go on to win the Mackinnon Stakes the same year after finishing fifth in the Cox Plate, while Vadamos would chase the lucrative $2 million Emirates Stakes and finish fourth after the same finishing result in last year’s Cox Plate.
FIRST ROUND OF INTERNATIONAL INVITES FOR THE 2017 LADBROKES COX PLATE:
|Horse||Country||Trainer||International Rating||Ladbrokes Odds|
|HIGHLAND REEL||IRE||Aidan O’Brien||123||$13|
|DECORATED KNIGHT||GB||Roger Charlton||117||$34|
Great Britain x3 – France x1 – Japan x2 – Hong Kong x1 – Ireland x1