The Cox Plate is often described as the purest two minutes in sport. It is known as “the race where legends are made” and is Australia’s weight-for-age championship where the best horses come together once a year to decide who is the greatest.
The Cox Plate honour roll is a who’s who of Australian racing and the race is rarely won by an average horse. Because of Moonee Valley’s uniquely intimate lay out, on Cox Plate Day it becomes like an amphitheatre that is unlike anywhere else in the world.
My personal favourite Cox Plate memory is the 2005 contest. The image of ten horses fanned across the track on the home turn, with nine of them under hard riding while Glen Boss sat patiently third from the outside on Makybe Diva will remain for me for the rest of my life.
Cox Plate Day is a day for the racing purists and of all the days of the Spring Racing Carnival it is the one that is most about the racing. Thirty or so thousand people in Moonee Valley tends to make things very squishy and if you’re only interested in the party then you may be better off in waiting a week later till Derby Day at Flemington.
RACE 8 – GROUP 1 COX PLATE (2040m)
I have a feeling that come 5.35PM this Saturday we may just get to see one of those special moments in racing where a champion confirms his greatness. So You Think is prohibitive odds for most at around $1.50 but for mine the price is justifiable. . He is in a different class to his opposition, and from an ideal barrier Steven Arnold can position him anywhere in the first half of the field depending on the early speed. More Joyous is the unknown factor and in any other year she would be the Cox Plate favourite. Eight wins from her last eight starts, including an enormous effort to win the Group 1 Toorak Handicap last start, confirm just how good she is. The worry is that she has never raced further than a mile (1600 metres) and has never had a great constitution, which has to make her a massive risk here. Zipping is the old warrior who is perhaps racing in career-best form at nine years of age and is guaranteed to still be grinding away at the finish. He may have even won the Cox Plate a couple of years ago had Michael Rodd not pinched it on Maldivian. Shoot Out will have a lot of support after the tragic death of his regular rider Stathi Katsidis during the week, but I think he’s a place hope at best.. Whobegotyou will still have fans but he doesn’t run 2000m at this level, while Wall Street, Trusting, Avienus, Luen Yat Forever and Captain Sonador are all well out of their depth.
- So You Think*
- Shoot Out
RACE 1 – MICROFLITE INGLIS BANNER (1000m)
A full field of unraced two year olds bar one. Some haven’t even been seen at the trials and trying to tip the winner is near impossible without inside information. If you don’t have any mail it’s probably best to sit the first race out.
- No Selections – Unraced 2yo’s
RACE 2 – LISTED ARROW TRAINING ALEXANDRA STAKES (1600m)
It doesn’t get much easier here with a typically open spring fillies event. Ambers Waltz bounced back to her best with a good fourth in the Group 1 Thousand Guineas and if she can reproduce that effort here then she will be hard to beat. Plastic Fantastic ran last in the same race but clearly didn’t handle the track and wouldn’t surprise here. Attributes can race handy from a good draw which is a massive advantage as can Zubbaya who has drawn wide but will appreciate the drop in class. Absolutely is still a maiden but ran well enough on debut to suggest she is a massive chance here over the mile while Follonica, Queen’s Fashion and Hidden Kisses all have claims.
- Ambers Waltz
RACE 3 – GROUP 3 1300 AUSTRALIA STAKES (1200m)
This looks an absolute lottery and all eleven runners are not without some claims. There seems to be quite genuine speed on paper so happy to go with the likely swoopers here. Lone Rock is drawn to get the perfect run midfield one off the fence. Forget her last start when she had an issue and go off her good win here two starts ago, as well as her second behind Toorak Toff in March. Multahem is a promising galloper that comes out of a good form race and I probably would have put him on top if not for drawing barrier 1. The Ruffian like Multahem is dropping back in distance and it may prove to be a smart move with this son of Lonhro whose best form is all over the sprint trips. Dutchy’s Lass and Shiny and New are the best of the on pacers and can win, while Happy Trails should have nearly won last start and is another with claims in a race that I’m not overly keen to get involved in.
- Lone Rock
- The Ruffian
RACE 4 – GROUP 2 PATINACK FARM CRYSTAL MILE (1600m)
Gold Salute is a classy miler who has had genuine excuses at each of his runs this preparation. From barrier six he should be able to sit back and finish over the top of them in a race that looks as though it will be run at an absolute break neck pace. Firebolt is a very good racehorse that can win here as long as he doesn’t get involved in any early speed battles. Drumbeats is yet to win at a mile but gets his chance here if he is ever going to.
- Gold Salute
RACE 5 – GROUP 2 SCHWEPPES STAKES (1200m)
It’s a shame that the public were robbed of a sprinting clash for the ages when hulking sprint star Hay List didn’t accept for Saturday’s race because of an elevated temperature. With Hay List out it does however make the race much easier to work out: they won’t beat Black Caviar. Don’t get me wrong, Melito and Hot Danish are very good mares but they are a level below Hay List and Black Caviar. I suspect all Saturday will do is build the anticipation for the Group 1 Patinack Classic (1200m) down the Flemington straight on Stakes Day, where Black Caviar will finally meet Hay List after winning again here on Saturday. Eagle Falls can improve and is worth a place bet.
- Black Caviar
- Hot Danish
RACE 6 – GROUP 2 AAMI VASE (2040m)
The Vase is a time-honoured lead up to the Derby that usually always produces the winner a week later. I have to stick with Rekindled Interest who I made my top selection in the Guineas a couple of weeks ago. Forget he even went around; after missing the start and getting back to near last, he was then continuously blocked for a run until flying home late once it was all over. The ten furlongs looks ideal here and he should be able to get rolling early with the rail true. The second-best run from a Derby point of view in the Guineas was Smokin Joey. He’ll no doubt appreciate the step up in distance and should be in the finish. Shootoff has had a very similar preparation to his sire Duelled who actually won this race before running second in the Derby. His third in the Spring Champion looks good form and from barrier four he should get a nice run. Cosmonaut and Bullbars ran well enough in the Guineas and should relish the extra distance while Absolutelyawesome and Shawdows in the Sun same from a race on Thousand Guineas Day that tends to be a great form reference for this race. Tale of Thunder worked impressively at Breakfast with the Best on Tuesday and might be the best of the roughies at huge odds.
- Rekindled Interest
- Smokin Joey
RACE 7 – GROUP 2 MOONEE VALLEY CUP (2500m)
The Bart Cummings trained Precedence will likely run a short priced favourite here as he aims to gain a penalty to boost his chances of making the Melbourne Cup. He was probably a touch unlucky behind Linton at Caulfield last start, however, what that run did teach us was that he may now be able to settle well enough in his races to run out these sort of distances. Jessicabeel missed a run in last Saturday’s Caulfield Cup after a last minute setback. She goes into this race fourth up and it is worth noting that fourth up last preparation she defeated Precedence by 4.2 lengths at Randwick over 2600m. Considering she is $17 in early markets and Precedence is $2.60 she has to be worth a small each way investment. Master O’Reilly is a non winner that looks a great place bet while Irazu, Above Average, Persian Star and My Bentley have all got rough each way claims. First emergency Sea Galleon shouldn’t be overlooked if he gains a start.
- Jessicabeel (Each Way Value)
- Master O’Reilly
RACE 9 – GROUP 3 PULSE PHARMACY STAKES (1600m)
A typically impossible mares race with a lot of the top chances drawing poor barriers to make things even harder. New Zealand mare Katie Lee is a high class horse and dual Group 1 winner across the ditch. She has a lot of weight but class will carry her a long way. Strawberry Field ran a big race first up and is well placed here; the barrier means she will probably get a long way back and run home late for a place as usual though. Lady Lynette won this race from a wide gate last year although I’m not sure she is going as well as then while Ghostmilk can win if the rain comes and the track is slow or worse. Preventable has to have a big chance with no weight as she is the likely leader in a race that looks devoid of speed. Lovemelikearock, Moment in Time, Marheta, Music Review and Zantelagh, if she gets a run, all have claims in a typically open affair.
- Katie Lee
- Strawberry Field
Ben Asgari is a second-year student at La Trobe University who blogs at http://benasgarirac where this article is also posted. Follow Ben on Twitter at www.twitter.com/benasgariracinging.wordpress.com/
Click here for Ben’s Beginner’s Guide to the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.