It has taken days to sort my photos of Cox Plate day, with various distractions eating into the time I had available to go through them all, edit and save them. Needless to say I have plenty of photos of Winx, some better than others.
You had to be there is a hackneyed phrase, but true in the case of the 2018 Cox Plate where a memorable moment in Australian Racing History occurred shortly after 5.00pm, with the mighty mare Winx winning her fourth Cox Plate and 29th successive win with consummate ease.
Is she the greatest ever?
As envisaged, it was a long day trackside, but certainly worth the effort of getting to Moonee Valley early and staying the course.
By the time I reached Moonee Valley at around 11.15am, the place was buzzing, but fortunately nowhere near full. My friend Rebecca had arrived somewhat earlier than myself and had staked a claim on the fence, much closer to the finishing post than we managed last year. In fact it was an excellent spot – pretty much central to the action.
All last week I had worried about getting past security with a small step stool, which I planned to use for taking the weight off my feet and standing on for the Cox Plate, giving me an advantage over all the iPads and iPhones that hamper one’s view when Winx steps onto the track. Security barely looked at the stool, which I had purchased on eBay and came in a handy carrying bag. In the interests of not riling other patrons, particularly some large bloke standing behind me at the fence who objected to me standing on it as it would spoil his view, I gave up on that idea. It did come in handy as a seat, for we were obliged to stay in the same spot for over 5 hours.
The first race on the program kicked off at 12.10pm and was the Inglis Banner, a race for 2 year olds over 1000 metres. The Gai Waterhouse trained filly Espaaniyah led from start to finish to win by 2 lengths from Biscara with third place getter Salome another 2 lengths behind.
Race 2, the Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Handicap (955 metres) was won by Ashlor from Desert Lashes and Invincible Al.
Race 3, the Group 3 Power Solutions Stakes (1600 metres) resulted in a win for Shoko who led from the start to the finish to narrowly prevail over Mamzelle Tess.
Carlton & United Breweries has released a limited edition Carlton Draught beer can to celebrate Winx’s three Cox Plates, and at Moonee Valley they were a hot selling item, judging by the number of crushed Winx cans littering the public lawn by the end of the day.
Moving on to Race 4, the Crockett Stakes, a race for mares and fillies over 1200 metres, it was won by Beauty, whom I saw galloping with her stablemate Sunlight at the Breakfast with the Best on Tuesday morning. She won the prize from Rainbow Girl and Illuminaire.
By the end of Race 4, there were still two and a half hours to go before the Cox Plate was run. It was pleasing to see Hugh Bowman guide the Chris Waller trained Charge to victory in Race 5, the Group 3 Australia Stakes. He narrowly defeated Sunset Watch and Ringerdingding.
Tasmanian filly Mystic Journey whom I last saw winning at big odds on Rupert Clarke Stakes day, proved she was not a one hit wonder with a gritty win in the Group 2 Aquis Farm Fillies Classic, fighting out the finish with Fundamentalist to win by over 2 lengths with El Dorado Dreaming running third.
Fortunately the next two races were fairly interesting as the afternoon progressed towards the Cox Plate.
Race 7, the Group 2 Crystal Mile was won by Cliff’s Edge from Prized Icon and Duca Valentinois …
… and Ventura Storm won the time honoured Moonee Valley Cup, the first he has won in a long time, from Trap For Fools and Libran.
The 50 minute interval from the running of the Moonee Valley Cup to the Cox Plate was occupied by various entertainments, including an equestrian prancing around opposite our spot. Her mount was obviously a former racehorse, Precedence perhaps.
The excitement had been building since the end of Race 8, as patrons jostled for position on the public lawn, and elsewhere I assume.
The jockeys were introduced as a stage was being set up on the track for Daryl Braithwaite and band, almost directly in front of where Rebeccca and I were standing. Local jockeys, particularly Hugh Bowman were cheered, though I heard a few boos when Benbatl’s jockey Oisin Murphy was introduced.
The National Athem was sung…
… then Daryl Braithwaite took the stage to sing his iconic “The Horses”, except that he opened with a completely different song.
Daryl tried to get the crowd to sing along to the set opener, but they were only waiting for “The Horses” and refused to cooperate. Daryl, after teasing the crowd with a pretend goodbye, launched into the now traditional song with a dedication to Winx.
Everyone sang along and it was extraordinary to be in the midst of such a joyous response.
As the stage was dismantled and carted away, the Cox Plate field were parading in the mounting yard. Soon enough they were filing onto the track to make their way to the barriers. Winx’s emergence was delayed as crowd anticipation reached fever pitch, and a huge roar greeted her as she stepped onto the track.
Winx, for a change, raced midfield as her stablemate D’Argento took up the running. She was three wide until the field spread out as they raced around the back of the course, then made her move as they turned into the straight for the final time.
The race was being promoted as a match race between local heroine Winx and Irish invader Benbatl, but as we’ve seen so many times before it was no competition, Winx sailing past Benbatl in the straight and winning by two lengths. Humidor ran third two lengths behind the leading pair. As Winx thundered down the straight, the crowd went wild and I felt the fence shake in the excitement of the moment.
“Simply the Best” blasted through the loudspeakers as Hugh Bowman paraded Winx back up the straight and it sounded perfectly apt for the occasion.
The 2018 Cox Plate was one of the most extraordinary race meetings I had ever attended and certainly the most memorable.
I’m thrilled that I was there to witness Winx’s historic win – the buzz has still to wear off.
Before heading home I finally visited the stalls area and Winx was in the walking ring, where a small crowd of admirers lined the fence to see her. She looked as calm and relaxed as usual, perhaps a bit tired after her effort.
Unfortunately Kings Will Dream was pulled up shortly after the start. He had sustained a pelvis fracture, but was subsequently taken to Ballarat Vetrinary Clinic. Last reports indicate he is recovering well.
Next Saturday is Derby Day at Flemington. It will seem like an anti climax after the thrills of Cox Plate day.