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The Cox Plate: No Winx provides value for the punters

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24th October, 2019

A Cox Plate without Winx feels a little flat this week, but I’m sure come 4:55pm on Saturday (3:55 for us Queenslanders) there will be plenty of electricity in the air at Moonee Valley.

So as the star mare enjoys retirement, a crack field has been assembled for Australia’s weight for age championship over 2040m. A full field of 14 will take to the tight-turning track and I suspect we could see a blanket finish – unless my tip blows them away.

After a big-priced tip ran third in last week’s Caulfield Cup, this columnist has been in sharp form, tipping the Geelong Cup winner Prince of Arran as well as suggesting a small play on roughie Haky, who ran third at $5.30 to place.

Let’s hope the form continues. Don’t forget tonight’s Manikato Stakes, which should be won by Bivouac, all things being equal.

Next week I’ll be publishing two stories – a runner-by-runner guide to the Golden Eagle at Rosehill as well as a look at the five key races on Derby Day at Flemington.

Of course there’ll be a comprehensive guide to the Melbourne Cup posted on The Roar next Sunday.

Good luck if you’re having a bet in the Cox Plate.

1. Black Heart Bart (11)


Trainer: Lindsey Smith
Jockey: Brad Rawiller, 59kg
Record: 57:17-15-4
Priz emoney: $4,648,580
Odds: $31
I love this horse after he saluted at $101 for me earlier this prep, but he can’t win the Cox Plate. That’s not to say he can’t be in the top five, but I just can’t see him outclassing some of these rivals in a true WFA championship race.

2. Avilius (7)

Trainer: James Cummings
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy, 59kg
Record: 22:11-2-2
Prize money: $2,808,710
Odds: $12
He’s a very good horse in a very good stable. However, he doesn’t go as well as Melbourne as he does in Sydney. Can’t write him off as a winning chance, but I prefer others on Saturday.

3. Kluger (3)

Trainer: Tomokazu Takano
Jockey: Tommy Berry, 59kg
Record: 22:5-4-3
Prize money: $2,633,894
Odds: $18
This Japanese raider ran second to Winx in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn, so that’s an indication of his ability. He is considered to be the second fancy of the two Japanese horses in the field, but don’t discount him.

There have been plenty of times when the second-string raider has won a major. Think of Media Puzzle when Vinnie Roe was supposed to be the hotshot Melbourne Cup horse.

4. Harlem (2)


Trainers: David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn, 58kg
Record: 34:5-2-3
Prize money: $2,428,2020
Odds: $51
If this race were at Flemington, I’d give him a slim chance, but as it’s at Moonee Valley I don’t give him a snowflake’s chance in hell. Good luck to connections, but he won’t be winning.

5. Homesman (16)

Trainer: Liam Howley
Jockey: Ben Melham, 59kg
Record: 16:5-5-1
Prize money: $1,878,139
Odds: $21
Probably the best horse in the Lloyd Williams barn and has been aimed for this race. He’s an on-pace type of horse and has drawn a wide alley (will probably jump from 12), so needs to be fast out of the gates to get a good position. I think he’s reasonable value and has to be a place chance.

Opie Bosson riding Te Akau Shark

(AAP Image/Race Images South)

6. Kings Will Dream (17)

Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman, 59kg
Record: 17:7-1-4
Prize money: $1,059,418
Odds: $21
He was an impressive winner of the Turnbull Stakes, but that was a handicap and this is a weight-for-age event. I just think he’s more of a handicapper these days. I just hope for connections that he gets through unscathed after breaking down in this event last year.

7. Te Akau Shark (18)


Trainer: Jamie Richards
Jockey: Opie Bosson, 59kg
Record: 9:5-3-0
Prize money: $466,685
Odds: $16
The wildcard of the field. This exceptionally talented Kiwi horse could do anything on Saturday. He could run past them like they are standing still or he could tail off at the back of the field.

If he looms up at the 200-metre mark, I’ll be cheering him on – I had a small ticket on him to win the Cox Plate a while ago. However, I don’t think I’ll be tipping him in this preview. I think he’s been okay since arriving in Australia, but there are some question marks on his ability to run a strong 2000 metres.

The wide barrier shouldn’t be a problem, so watch for him late down the outside.

8. Danceteria (10)

Trainer: David Menuisier
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
Record: 16:7-0-2
Prize money: $440,573
Odds: $18
He’s the right type of British import to have an impact in Australia over our middle distance races, but whether he can handle Moonee Valley is the real question. He’s a big, free-striding galloper and I doubt the Cox Plate venue is going to suit him.

His last start win in Germany back in July suggests if he’s not competitive on Saturday, he could still run a big race in another race like the Emirates at the end of the Flemington carnival.

9. Lys Gracieux (15)


Trainer: Lys Gracieux
Jockey: Damian Lane, 57kg
Record: 20:5-8-4
Prize money: $8,142,047
Odds: $3.80
She won the QE II Cup in Japan a year ago in fine style and has been consistent since, with three placings and a last-start victory in the Group 1 Takarazuka. Damian Lane rode her that day in June and retains the steer on Saturday.

She will likely jump from barrier 13, but that should allow her to balance up and find a position. If she brings her best, I doubt the others can beat her.

10. Magic Wand (3)

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Jockey: Ryan Moore, 57kg
Record: 18:2-7-2
Prize money: $3,138,856
Odds: $14
This non-winner has come all the way from Ireland to not win the Cox Plate. She’s a nice horse and has a good jockey and a good barrier, but non-winners tend to not win and I won’t be tipping her to reverse her fortune on Saturday.

She has finished second in four of her past five runs, so maybe throw her in your quinellas.

11. Cape of Good Hope (8)

Trainers: David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig
Jockey: Mark Zahra
Record: 11:3-1-2
Prize money: $1,005,704
Odds: $12
This northern hemisphere colt was impressive first-up in Australia, winning the Caulfield Stakes over 2000 metres. He did beat only Black Heart Bart and Harlem, but you couldn’t fault the performance.


His form overseas in ten starts was solid at the elite level and I’d imagine he’ll be somewhere in the mix as they turn for home.

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12. Mystic Journey (6)

Trainer: Adam Trinder
Jockey: Anthony Darmanin, 55.5kg
Record: 16:11-1-0
Prize money: $3,541,100
Odds: $7
After she won the Lawrence Stakes first-up over 1400 metres I thought the spring was going to be at Mystic Journey’s mercy. I wouldn’t say she’s been disappointing since, but she’s probably performed lower than my expectations.

Based on the fact we don’t really know how good she is at this company over 2000 metres I’d have to risk her at this price. Historically barrier six is the most successful in the history of the race, but I’m going to take her on.

13. Verry Elleegant (5)


Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: James McDonald, 55.5kg
Record: 14:7-2-1
Prize money: $1,594,369
Odds: $18
This Oaks winner is a very nice horse but I’m disappointing they chose a Cox Plate path instead of a Caulfield Cup route. I just don’t think she’s a WFA championship mare. In a handicap at Caulfield she would have been right in the race, but I don’t think she’ll be in the judge’s equations on Saturday.

14. Castelvecchio (4)

Trainer: Richard Litt
Jockey: Craig Williams, 49.5kg
Record: 8:3-1-1
Prize money: $1,814,750
Odds: $7.50
The boom three-year-old with no weight on his back. Can this youngster do what the likes of So You Think, Savabeel, Octagonal and Surround managed to achieve? It’ll be tough. The reality is he’s a chance as the current crop of Australia middle-distance horses is incredibly weak.

When Black Heart Bart is winning WFA Group 1 races at the ripe old age of nine, then we are not exactly flushed with talent. So I think Castelvecchio is a chance and probably the best hope of the Australian horses.

15. Humidor (14) EMG 1

Trainers: Ciaron Maher and David Eustace
Jockey: Blake Shinn, 59kg
Record: 36:8-7-5
Prize money: $3,992,915
Odds: $31
There was some small controversy this week when the Moonee Valley committee left this bloke out of the final field. He is a horse that’s won almost $4 million in prizemoney and placed twice in two starts in this race the past two years.

If he did get a run, and he might as the first emergency, he’ll run a decent race. Will he win? Probably not, based on what we’ve seen this preparation.

Damian Lane rides Nature Strip to win race 3

(AAP Image/George Salpigtidis)

16. Mr Quickie (12) EMG 2

Trainer: Phillip Stokes
Jockey: Glen Boss, 57.5kg
Record: 16:9-2-2
Prize money: $1,007,200
Odds: $26
In the unlikely event he gets a run he’d need to be sharper to be a winning chance. he is being aimed at the Melbourne Cup and he’s more likely on the first Tuesday in November than on Saturday.

17. Gailo Chop (1) EMG 3

Trainer: Matthew Williams
Jockey: Damien Oliver, 59kg
Record: 32:13-4-4
Prize money: $4,206,398
Odds: $51
Highly unlikely to get a run and on form probably couldn’t make a case for him anyway.

18. Dream Castle (13) EMG 4


Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor
Jockey: Patrick Cosgrave
Record: 17:4-2-1
Prize money: $996,355
Odds: $101
He won’t get a start so I really don’t need to be worrying about his form. His last run in the Caulfield Stakes was well below par for a Cox Plate campaign.

The verdict

As I mentioned in Castelvecchio’s preview, I’m not gushing about the depth of our middle-distance horse ranks in Australia. That doesn’t mean it’s bad from a spectacle point of view, as we know warriors like Black Heart Bart and Humidor and can assess their form, but it does make me inclined to look at some of the visiting horses.

I don’t see why the Japanese can’t make it a second major in a row with Lys Gracieux. If she’s happy and healthy, she’s the best horse in the race. Of the Australians, Castelvecchio and Cape of Good Hope – probably not an Aussie just yet – are the best local hopes.

I really hope Te Akau Shark produces a pearler, too.

Suggested bet: Lys Gracieux to win.