Compared to the past four Cox Plates, this year’s edition lacked the heightened excitement that super mare Winx attracted whenever she hit the track.
Even Daryl Braithwaite was missing; a large choir rendition of his traditional “The Horses” not being a patch on the original version.
As anticipated it was a long day, but everything went to plan as I reached Moonee Valley half an hour before the gates opened and was among the first entrants at the main gate.
After passing without any hassles through the security check, I headed directly for the public lawn and found my friend George ensconced in the prime postion closest to the finishing post. As it was in a corner nestled up to a vacant space where various sponsor signs were stowed, it didn’t matter if we stood on our steps (in George’s case, his ladder) as nobody complained about us spoiling their view.
Rebecca arrived shortly later and we basically stayed there all afternoon, taking turns to venture to the stalls and/or merchandise store.
A Japanese photographer (also equipped with a step) whose camera had an enormous lens, was my neighbour on the fence, but he didn’t at anytime stymie my shots. He lasted the distance through sun and rain as did we three.
The weather was predominantly inclement and changeable - one minute sunny, the next raining.
The first race was scheduled for 12.10 pm, so there was a bit of a wait to start photography practice. The big screen showed replays of past Cox Plates throughout the afternoon on a loop.
Once the the first race was underway, the afternoon went quite quickly, and as our steps also came in handy for a seat, it was not that stressful.
As is traditional the Inglis Banner, for two year olds started off the racing program and was won by Ideas Man from Bella Nipotina and Arctic Ice.
With the changeable weather, photography was challenging, but overall I’m quite pleased with how my photos turned out.
Race 2, the Bendigo Bank Handicap, a sprint over 955 metres resulted in an easy win for Fine Dane, who beat the favourite Esperance by 1½ lengths.
Last year Mystic Journey won the Group 2 Fillies Classic easily from Fundamentlist. In this year’s race Fascino and La Falaise deadheated for first, not something you witness every race day.
Rebecca and I decided to miss Race 4, and go to the stalls area, leaving George to mind our spot. We timed our arrival outside Mystic Journey’s stall perfectly. She had just been washed and was looking black and beautiful in her stall.
A small contingent of Tasmanian fans were there, so we were roped in to appear in a Mystic Journey promo for Tasmanian TV. We scored a very nice Mystic Journey cloth flag for our participation. Rebecca who’d purchased a Mystic Journey cap at the Merch Stall on the way through, also had the opportunity of getting it signed by Adam Trinder.
Returning trackside, we witnessed race 5, the Group 3 Australia Stakes, which Sartorial Splendor won easily.
After the race 5 presentation was over, a Winx tribute was scheduled, where her connections (owners) were driven down the straight to the finishing post.
All four of Winx’s Cox Plate trophies were lined up with the connections just past the winning post. It was hard to get a clear photo as pesky cameramen hogged my POV. I didn’t hear a word of what was said.
After that, there were only three races to run before the Cox Plate, the first of these being the Moonee Valley Vase, run over the same distance as the Cox Plate. It’s normally contested by Derby bound three year olds.
Soul Patch, a son of 2013 Cox Plate winner Shamus Award was the tearaway winner.
The next two races (three if you count the Cox Plate) were won by International raiders; the Moonee Valley Gold Cup being won by the stunning Irish goodlooker Hunting Horn, who beat local favourite Mr Quickie by 1¼ lengths.
The Group 2 Crystal Vase was taken out by British horse Chief Ironside, who defeated last year’s winner Cliff’s Edge by a head.
As you can see from the above photo the sun had come out for Race 8, but soon enough it clouded over and the Cox Plate seemed likely to be run in a rain storm.
That didn’t eventuate thankfully, as during the pre-race ceremony it cleared again, though it was overcast.
A stage was assembled in the middle of the track as the jockey’s were introduced and the National Anthem was sung.
The choirs (four of them) trooped onto the stage and surrounding stands, tallest to smallest. As previously mentioned, the choirs did not have the same crowd pleasing presence as old rocker Daryl Braithwaite, and the singalong was lacklustre in comparison to last year.
The track was cleared and all of sudden it was only 15 minutes until the Cox Plate start.
Soon enough the Cox Plate field were out on the track heading to the barriers. Some contestants whizzed past too fast for me get a photo, but others took their time.
Local hopes rested with the Tasmanian mare Mystic Journey, but alas it was not to be her day. She raced this time up on the speed in about third place for most of the race, but was swamped, first by three year old colt Castelvecchio, who was in turn overtaken by the Japanese mare Lys Gracieux who came from the tail of the field with Te Akau Shark hot on her tail.
It was an impressive victory by Lys Gracieux, clearly the class horse in the race and I was glad I was there to see it. If Winx had been in the field, who would have won? My guess would be Winx.
Castelvecchio held on to finish second and Te Akau Shark ran third. Mystic Journey finished 5th, the best of the locals, just behind Magic Wand.
It had been a long day and I did not regret enduring the trying weather conditions, but I did not leave the course with the same warm glow I had experienced over the past four years when Winx reigned supreme.
The crowds were down on last year, not surprisingly, so it didn’t take long to leave the course. I made it home by 6.30 pm.
Next Saturday is Derby Day at Flemington which no doubt will be different, though the weather again is forecast to be somewhat damp. I’m looking forward to seeing top New Zealand mare Melody Belle in the flesh in the Empire Rose Stakes.