The Roar
The Roar



The Cox Plate: The numbers that just don’t add up

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Roar Rookie
20th October, 2022

Warren Buffet is said to have had fun expanding a business euphemism to read ‘A rising tide floats all boats….. and only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked’.

Australian racing and in particular the assessment of the class of the Australian (or nationalised) racehorses competing in the 2022 Cox Plate provide a case in point.

All Australian (or nationalised) horses in the race received rating boosts of between 2 and 10 rating points for their last start performance…..seemingly irrespective of their performance.

That is the very definition of a rising tide!

This has seen 8 of 12 competitors judged by Australia’s International Handicapper as class-worthy of a start in the Arc De Triomophe or the Champion stakes in the UK. I can hear the overseas laughter from here.

For context, Verry Elleegant (a winner of 8 Australian Group 1s) was given a lower rating for winning a Group 1 in 2021 than the current rating of 8 Cox Plate runners….most of which have never won an open age Group 1!

So how has this come about? Has there been a miraculous injection of class in the 4 months VE has been on the international catwalk? No.

Have all these horses climbed Mt Everest or jumped out of the ground to set new benchmarks of performance? No. Have they been clocking up Group 1 win after Group 1 win? No. Are they all young untested horses on an upward spiral? Far from it.


Is it a mirage – absolutely. How else do you explain this ‘rising tide’ rating phenomenon?

A deeper dive into these ratings reveals just how nakedly distorted these assessments are.

Take Profondo for example. It ran a well beaten 9th last start in the Set Weights and Penalties Turnbull stakes carrying 2.5kgs less than WFA, yet it’s rating jumped from 106 to 116 (it’s highest ever rating). In the same race Maximal Young Werther and Luncies competed.

Carrying the same weight as Maximal and Young Werther, Luncies was beaten home by less than one length. It’s performance received a rating of 97. (Remember, it’s not a Cox plate starter). On the other hand, Cox Plate starters Maximal, Young Werther and Profondo (which finished behind Luncies) were given ratings of 112,112 & 116.

Is this not Alice in Wonderland stuff?

This rating differential is like saying that all 3 could give Luncies a 50 metre head start or carry 10kgs more and still beat Luncies over 2000m…..which they clearly couldn’t!

Amongst the many other examples – let’s look at another form line where Tuvalu won the Group 1 Toorak Handicap. It was awarded a rating of 108 for that effort. Laws of Indices which runs in the Cox Plate ran 2nd to Tuvalu. His performance was rewarded with a lift from 106 to 114 (6 more than the winner Tuvalu).


You can’t make this stuff up.

Then there is the Verry Elleegant benchmark. When it won the 2020 Caulfield Cup up against a strong field, (that included an Epsom Derby winner) her performance was rated at 116.

Fast forward to 2022 Caulfield Cup, an edition that 99.9% of the population agreed was the poorest edition they could remember. Even the handicapper admitted as much when declaring weights for each runner. A top weight of 56.5kgs tells all.

Despite this, Gold Trip was awarded a rating of 119 for running second! Times suggest Verry Elleegant would have beaten Gold Trip by 10 lengths (and yes track ratings were the same).

Is it any wonder overseas jurisdictions have a great belly laugh when they look at our WFA ranks? Is it any wonder the French were so quick to adjust International ratings as soon as they got a chance?


So why are these ratings so inflated for Cox Plate entrants? Well…it’s not the horses that have any trouble swimming naked, just those who crave international prestige.