The Mug’s Cox Plate Preview


Not sure where to start it’s been so long since I put pen to racing paper. Not too many wins to report either which is about to change, now that Cox Plate Day has become one of mine: thanks to Gallic and El Segundo and Wally F. Beaver about a decade ago.

I spotted Wal the other day for the first time in a while, at Caulfield, still controlling that ramp into the betting ring, parading up and down with his hands behind his back like some Dickensian clerk, or a lab-rat on a wheel. He got me that day. Although I wasn’t across the form too well.

I was doing the Lander and Rogers tent for Derek Humphery-Smith (who could be a relative of Wally’s: perhaps his son). DHS makes every pound a prisoner (as the great Laurie Taberner of South Melbourne fame likes to say). That may sound hard on DHS but he deserves it. He’s one of the few blokes I know who wouldn’t have made it in to the Salvador Allende Memorial Racing Alliance (constituted to show socialism can work in horse-racing) on ideological grounds. You had to be able to recognize one of Che, Fidel or Manning Clark to get a guernsey. He thought Manning Clark was the name of a Thomas Hardy novel.

That was the day of the big three faves: So You Think, Black Caviar (who’s in today in a tricky sprint), and More Joyous (a huge run with 58kg in the Toorak). So not a lot was happening, and Wal had them all under the odds anyway.

That day I tipped with a bloke called Mark Sullivan, who knows which end to put the hay in and which end to steer clear of. He found the last two winners, so those who were still listening went home happy.

Of course So You Think is hot favourite for the Cox Plate and so he should be, with More Joyous a solid second favourite. But So You Think is blowing in the betting at the rate of about a cent an hour. Now out to $1.62 which has taken me straight to the Bureau of Meteorology site, and the rain is at Great Western en route to Moonee Valley. I think So You Think goes alright in the wet anyway.

DHS rang me when I was at the Geelong Cup the other day to invite me to golf at Huntingdale which of course I accepted. He must know someone there. Or there’s a hole in the fence. Really I think he rang to tell me he’d had a tip for Kookaburras and had had fifty on it.

“Cents or dollars?” I inquired earnestly.

I was in the process of backing The Comedian which won like a really good horse.

J. Dunne was the host at the Geelong Racing Club. I sat with Jake Norton of the wandering eye and his Betfair colleague Sarah (who certainly didn’t need a second name in the way that Brazilian soccer players don’t), and J. Lugg (a trots man).

J. Dunne is another bloke who wouldn’t have heard of The Internationale. How do good Catholics get so brainwashed that you can spot them, some old Xavier boys (like J. Dunne), arm in arm singing Land of Hope and Glory? What wore their forebears say?

But J. Dunne can tell a good yarn. He bowled up on Wednesday and opened with “I was in a karaoke bar in Toledo the other night.” And on it went from there. All true, by the way.

Apparently he got talking to an African-American bloke who had a beautiful speaking voice and said, “Go on, mate. You must be able to sing. Surely you can belt out one of those Stylistics’ numbers.”

To which old mate said, “I am one of the Stylistics.”

Again I was having no luck, although The Comedian did give me a good bank. If only Wally Beaver had had the fortitude to turn up I’d have The Comedian into anything I could pronounce, which wouldn’t have included the winner of the Geelong Cup. Not a traveller: W. Beaver. When I asked his doubles bookie rival where he was, the posse said, “He’ll be home doing the form for Saturday.”

I roved the 6 and the 17 with the field in the ninth. The winner paid $64, the 6 ran second, and the 17 looked to have grabbed third. No. Ran fourth. Race 10, I boxed 1, 4, 9, 13, 15 and had a real go at the 4 at $17 each way. The 4 looked to have run third. The judges semaphored 15, 1, 4. You beauty. Tri would have paid $1200. Hang on. They’ve taken the 4 out and replaced it with 16.

In between those two tales of woe I tried to back the 11 in Sydney, $20 each way at $45. They were going into the stalls. The bloke in front of me asked for six mystery bets. After he’d received the change he said, “Aww, you might as well give me another one”, and fumbled around for $1 coin. They jumped mid-fumble.

Gypsy Ruler looked the winner at the 200, but didn’t finish the race off, ran third and paid $10.10. Thank the Lord it didn’t win.

That’s how well I’m going.

But I am from Oakey and Oakey has had a massive Spring so far. Reggy Milne trains Captain Sonador, the Epsom winner, who is in the Cox Plate tomorrow. And young journalism student and trainer Ben Currie saddled up Rothera to win last Saturday. Of course Bernborough came from Oakey (he never won a Cox Plate) and so did Vince Curry, one of Queensland’s most-loved race-callers. So look out for Oakey runners at the moment.

As I sit here the rain continues to come down. (So You Think at $1.64) Which does nothing for Captain Sonador.

I think the Schweppes is a tricky little sprint. Black Caviar could have won by plenty (more) last start. She’s undefeated. Hot Danish will be on the pace with her. Melito will trail. Melito’s never one resuming. I reckon it might be a blow-out race. I’m going to have a small ticket on True Persuasion.

The AAMI Vase is very tough. No Oakey horses. It’s a Field job for the quaddie. I might go with 5,1,7,4 and have a couple of dollars on Bullbars because I’ve kept an eye on him fro a few starts now.

I quite like the Moonee Valley Cup. The pace in the race may come from some real roughies. Niptious will probably lead. D. Nikolic can rate a nag: think Starspangled last Spring, and Mummify once upon a time. Sea Galleon, if it gets a start, will be up there as well. Irazu is one of mine. He ran second to Maybe Better in the Saab a few years ago. He should have won a Sydney Cup, going down by less than a length after being hammered a couple of times in the straight. He’s a genuine toiling stayer. I reckon he’ll be there. But probably the bridesmaid to Precedence again. Bart. Yes, Bart. Precedence had no luck the entire length of the straight in the Herbert Power. He’ll be $2.50, except at the Beaver board where he’ll be $2.10.

However quaddies are made when good things get rolled. Tomorrow the quaddie could pay anywhere between $120 and seven figures.

That’s if the two standouts falter in the Cox Plate. (Rain even heavier now at 11pm) Reasonable thinking would point to So You Think as the winner, and More Joyous the quinella horse. But what of Wall Street from New Zealand? And Luet Yat Forever from Macau? And the Oakey horse? I think the mug in me has to go looking for value in defiance of J.B.Cummings (what would he know?) I have to back the Oakey horse: Captain Sonador.

I don’t mind the last leg of the quaddie, but I have to go and check the prices again now, so quickly: I like Belsenica. But I’m thowing in Zantelagh, Preventable, Katie Lee and Marheta.

The Shehu Shagari Mug Punter’s Special: Race 9 No. 6 Belsenica, each way.

Good punting.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. John,
    On a personal note, my very good mate Ernie, who is presently in hosptial minus half his leg, has a tenth share in Sound Journey. The win has sparked him up no end after a very difficult 2 months and put a nice earner in my pocket to boot. I spriuked it to Crio last month and it ran like a dog so I hope he had a little flutter today.

  2. mark freeman says

    Welcome back JTH. Geez you were stiff at Geelong, nightmare scenarios with the queue muppet and the judge giving bad stick.

    And I’ve noticed this Oakey trend at the track … haven’t heard of an Oakey horse race in Melbourne before let alone two good ones in a week.

    Suspicious of your Bernborough comment I’ve checked it out and Wikipedia says:
    “Bernborough was foaled at Rosalie Plains near the township of Oakey in the Darling Downs region of South East Queensland.”

    I was thinking that settles it, but then again you may well have added the line to Wikipedia yourself…

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