Expensive experts exhort pyrotechnics, parades, Braithwaite, bands, celebrities and sideshows, but the secret to the success of the Cox Plate has always been about getting fine thoroughbred horses inside the bowl at Moonee Ponds where they are then exposed to pressure unlike that of any other race in Australia. Don’t worry about those contenders who’ve unfortunately fallen by the wayside; “at the school” the jockeys, horses and the fortunate fans in the amphitheatre will raise a notch as the “acid” is applied. Invariably it creates drama and a deserved winner.
Some lustre has undeniably been lost with the scratching of Atlantic Jewel, the setback to It’s a Dundeel and the perceived form fade of Puissance de Lune, but there’s still plenty of fascinating possibilities for those looking to snare a winner – not least the conundrum of attempting to “get out” on the 18th race in 24hrs on a track which usually holds rain but develops irresistible “patterns”. It is little help when a tipster implores enthusiasts to WAIT!…but it is the only sensible ploy. See how the track and your budget are playing and make a call at about 5.30 Saturday afternoon.
The prologue is unusual and challenging, with the Manikato Stakes being held on the Friday night of the “Carnival” and, in my opinion, the effect being a dilution of Saturday’s offering. We’ve now got a patchwork quilt of quality and fluff, whereas the best 8 would make a bonanza card, reminiscent of those which thrust Cox Plate Day to the top of many racegoers’ favourites list. Take up the challenge…even reluctantly push it out to 9
1- Maybe a 2yo (or bring back the Hiskens!)
2- The G2 3yo Mile
3- The G3 1200m
4- The Vase
5- The Cup
6- G2 Mile
7- G1 Sprint
What we’ve ended up with is not up to scratch, though I’m sure it will still be a fantastic festival.
Friday night opens with a 3000m marathon followed by a novelty race for Greys – both OK but not setting the bar high enough. This is not meant to deride the meeting, with some really good races soon to follow – the G2 Classic (MR3, 1600m, 7:15pm) and the Crockett Stakes (MR4, Listed, 1200m, 7:45pm) – but we unfortunately must wait until 10pm for the outstanding G1 Manikato (MR8, 1200m, WFA). Samaready is a gun and Arinosa must be the value.
Saturday we’ll be back early for 10 races “padded” to stretch until the Ch7 News.
The day begins with a restricted 2yo and then some nondescript Handicaps before the first of the traditional drawcards – MR5, Vase, 2040m, 3yo, set weights. This is usually a ripper contest and a stepping stone for higher honours – Super Cool beat It’s a Dundeel last year. My best remembered Vase is the battle between Kempinsky and Elvstroem a decade ago, but Helenus, Whobegotyou and Rekindled Interest are other names etched on the Vase and in my mind. Savvy Nature (1) will be 6/4 and should beat a smallish field. 2 and 3 have claims.
Hawkes’ Not Listenin’tome looks like being the shortie of the day, quoted 6/4on for the G3 1200m 3yo (MR6, SWP). Seems very skinny. Must be pretty good. Happy to find one to take it on.
The Quaddy eventually starts with the old Moonee Valley Cup (MR7, G2, 2500m, SWP), by which time the racing pattern should be evident. Smallish field and likely dawdling pace – maybe Mourinho.
In the WFA Mile (MR8, 1600m, G2, WFA) Toydini is the obvious benchmark in another small, but high quality, contest.
I remember the Moir as being the last race for many years but more recently Lady Lynette saluted in successive editions of the Mares Hcp (G3, 1600m), a top class and challenging get out for punters. Now it is Race 9, still a beauty, but simply a prelude to the rich WFA Plate to follow (MR10, 2040m, WFA). I might try the 6 in to 3 and 12 as a dramatic running double to salve the brain, the bones and the budget after a frantic 24 hours “on the bag”.
Racing’s taken some big shots this season, even this week enduring the retirement of the next banner girl, multiple suspensions of jockeys and controversy over track conditions and schedules. But the Cox Plate always manages to rise above trifling matters and produce “one for the ages”.
Punters will need patience to prosper – and tips from our canny contributors.