Looking at the card for the Cox Plate meeting at Moonee Valley on Saturday, one cannot help feeling a tingle of excitement in anticipation of a great day of racing.
Taking advantage of my Moonee Valley season’s ticket, this year I will be attending the event, steeling myself for the crowds of drunken revellers, and the Black Caviar fan club who no doubt will be out in force. I last went to a Cox Plate meeting in 1998 when Might And Power won, which was also the last time the admission fee was a reasonable sum. They put the cost of entry up to $50.00 the following year, so I refused to go thereafter, despite my favourite horse, Sunline winning the race in the next two years . The admission is now $55.00+, but my season’s ticket covers that, and is one of the reasons I purchased the ticket.
The Cox Plate of course is the premier WFA race on the Australian racing calendar. The list of winners is also a list of champion Aussie equine heroes. My first favourite racehorse, Dhaulagiri, won it fifty years ago in 1961, Tulloch won it in 1960.
Unlike last year, when the forgone conclusion was a victory for So You Think, this year the field is evenly matched with no real stand out performers, though plenty have the talent to win if nothing untoward stymies their chances. For a start there’s Caulfield Guineas winner Helmet, the lightweight three year old who will be trying to emulate the exploits of So You Think, the most recent three year old to win the race. He’s got a chance if he can run the 2040 metres and handle the pressure.
Jimmy Choux, New Zealand 2011 Horse of the Year, has long been favourite for the Cox Plate, but in a practice run on Tuesday failed to inspire onlookers, though that didn’t faze his trainer. He is too good to overlook, but this is his first run at Moonee Valley so there remain doubts as to his winning chances on this famously tricky track.
Lion Tamer, purportedly a moody beast, who if he doesn’t feel like racing, won’t, is a very good prospect if he is so inclined and if blinkers make a difference. He won the Victoria Derby last year by 6.5 lengths and also recently won the Underwood Stakes from Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed, though finished second last in the Caulfield Stakes after starting hot favourite.
Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes winner Rekindled Interest, loves Moonee Valley and ticks all the boxes in terms of being able to race the distance, handle the track and be there at the finish.
Others worthy of consideration are Glass Harmonium who never runs a bad race, King’s Rose who is consistency itself, and fellow mares Secret Admirer, Shamrocker and Pinker Pinker who all have a chance to steal a place if not win. But perhaps old trouper Efficient will cause an upset. It’s happened before when 9 year old Fields of Omagh won the Plate for a second time in 2006, much to everyone’s surprise.
The Cox Plate may be the feature race, but as it’s being run at the late hour of 5.35pm, there are other races on the card to capture the interest before that happens, most notably the Schweppes Stakes a sprint over 1200 metres, starring Black Caviar aiming for her 15th consecutive win. She should do it easily, facing only four other contenders which include Scenic Blast returning to racing after a year’s break, old Here De Angels and Doubtful Jack.
I aim to arrive at the track in time for the third race to see Karuta Queen in action. In her last race she ran second to Black Caviar after leading by three lengths. It was quite a sight seeing the monster mare overtake Karuta Queen, but the little queen will have her chance at a win in the Group Two Australia Stakes on Saturday without having to contend with Black Caviar. She will however, have to beat the likes of Amah Rock and Miss Stellabelle who have both won over the distance (1200 metres) at Moonee Valley recently. Also the Peter Moody trained Beckon could be a threat, as looking at his form, albeit on country tracks, he shows great promise.
Caulfield Guineas runner up, Manawanui is the class runner in the Group Two Mitchelton Wines Vase, a race for three year olds over the Cox Plate distance of 2040 metres. There are only six runners in the field and Manawanui’s major threat appears to be the suitably bred Collar and Power Broker. Manawanui ran second in the Caulfield Guineas, fighting it out with Helmet to the line in a finish reminiscent of the days of Testa Rossa and Redoute’s Choice, who fought a similar battle in their version of the Guineas in 1999.
2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain is entered in the Moonee Valley Cup, now named the Drake International Cup. It is a Group Two race for stayers over 2500 metres and other entries include the Bart Cummings Cup hopeful, German import Illo, Linton, who has been disappointing this time around, though with a different jockey (Nick Hall his regular rider has been suspended for careless riding) he might return to form. There’s also Tullamore backing up this week after running third in the Caulfield Cup, New Zealander Booming, and South Australian mare Lalla Rookh, stable mate to Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed.
The Crystal Mile has a fairly ordinary field with tried and true middle distance runners like Danleigh, good on his day, Triple Elegance who ran third in the George Main behind Sincero a few weeks ago, Luen Yat Forever, who showed remarkable improvement when running third behind King Mufhasa and King’s Rose in the Toorak Handicap. The Mick Price trained Testa My Patience and New Zealand runner He’s Remarkable, appear to have the best form, but not at Moonee Valley.
The weather is expected to be cool and mild on Saturday with a possible shower or two. But the excellent race card including the appearance of glamour horse Black Caviar will make it well worth attending, no matter what the weather gods choose to throw on Melbourne.
In the meantime check out Black Caviar’s latest words of wisdom on her blog here and here. It’s hilarious!