It seems that the Cox Plate is going the way of the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, with classy International racehorses making up a fair portion of the field.
Last year’s Cox Plate was won by the Aiden O”Brien trained Adelaide. It was a sensational win where Adelaide sustained a long wide swooping run to win on the line from the locally bred Fawkner and Silent Achiever.
Silent Achiever has retired to the breeding barn, but Fawkner is back for another go, along with the usual stalwart middle distance locals Criterion, Happy Trials and The Cleaner who all ran in the 2014 Cox Plate. Mourinho missed out on a start last year, but has made the field this time round.
New faces include the Chris Waller contingent Kermadec, Preferment, and Winx the sole mare in the field, and Godolphin pair Complacent and Hartnell.
And then there are the Internationals, Arod, Highland Reel and Gailo Chop.
It’s a really tough race to assess as any one of the 14 entrants could win. In fact I haven’t a clue as to who the likely winner will be, though I have favourites whom I hope will win.
The Cleaner drew barrier 14 in last year’s Cox Plate, and didn’t gain his preferred leading position until the winning post (first time through), but this year he has barrier 2, where he’ll be able to take the lead without burning up too much energy. It would be great if he could sustain his run unopposed, but I doubt he’ll be given the chance. Whatever, he’ll keep the race honest.
Criterion is my top pick of the locals. He has drawn a good gate and will probably race mid field as he did last year, and inspires confidence after he won the Caulfield Stakes at his last start.
Mourinho is always underrated, but he has won at Moonee Valley in the past and he won his first Group 1 race when taking out the Underwood Stakes recently.
Fawkner who already has a Group 1 win (Makybe Diva Stakes) this season, ran a close second to Mourinho in the Underwood Stakes, which had him as early favourite for the Cox Plate, was uncomfortable on the hard track at his last start in the Caulfield Stakes, which lowered his colours somewhat. The track tomorrow will be softer for him. He was only just beaten by Adelaide last year, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him in the finish.
The last mare to win the Cox Plate was Pinker Pinker in 2011. Chris Waller regards Winx as a potential super star and is his top pick of his three Cox Plate runners. She won the Group 1 Epsom by two and half lengths, and also won the Group 1 Queensland Oaks. This will be the first time she has raced in Melbourne and at Moonee Valley no less. Who knows she may love the Valley, and be well and truly in the finish with her extraordinary turn of foot.
I fear however that the International entrants will steal the prize again. Arod and Highland Reel are the two most likely to take the Plate. Highland Reel is the current favourite in fact.
After writing the above I am no wiser as to who will win. You might as well stick a pin the form guide, it’s as good a method as any.
The Manikato Stakes on Friday night looks easier to suss, with Chautauqua being the standout runner. He faces an excellent field that includes old warrior Buffering, arch rival Terravista, the revamped Rebel Dane, and smart sprinting mares Srikandi and Alpha Miss.
Everyone is saying that the 2015 Cox Plate is the classiest we’ve seen for years, so I’m glad I’ll be at the track to witness it.
The weather is expected to be mild and sunny, so no doubt the meeting will be as crowded as usual. Hopefully I can find a good spot to see the action and take photos.