Another huge day upcoming Down Under on Saturday (late night Friday here), topped by A$3 million weight-for-age G1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. As one of Australia’s top four G1 races (the others being the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup, as well as the Golden Slipper for juveniles), the Cox Plate has been run since 1922, and won some of the legendary names of Aussie turf: Phar Lap (twice), Kingston Town (thrice), Makybe Diva, and the incomparable Kiwi mare Sunline (twice). Just because I love to watch the replays again and again (teary-eyed each time), here's a video that shows both of Sunline's victories, some of the greatest racing you will ever see:
Last year’s winner So You Think—a High Chaparral colt trained by living legend Bart Cummings—is back for the repeat and favored. After nearly 10 months off following surgery for a trapped epiglottis, he returned at the end of August with three increasingly-impressive wins including the G1 Yalumba Stakes two weeks ago. Don’t think he won’t be ready to run on such “short” notice: Aussies run their horses into fitness, not like American trainers who pussy-foot around with huge layoffs and fast workouts, thinking their horses will “peak” with a big performance come race day. In fact, as noted in the article whose link is embedded above, if all goes according to plan in the Cox Plate, Cummings plans to not only run So You Think in the two-mile Melbourne Cup on November 2, but also the 10-furlong G1 Mackinnon—on October 30, THREE DAYS before the Melbourne Cup. Crazy you say? Think again. The 82-year-old trainer has won over 260 Group 1 races, including 12 Melbourne Cups, seven Caulfield Cups, four Golden Slippers and four Cox Plates. The man knows what he’s doing.
That said, I’m willing to go against So You Think, in favor of Gai Waterhouse’s cracking mare More Joyous—even if Gai’s bookmaker son Tom isn’t. A winner of 10 races in 13 starts including her last eight dating back to September 2009, this 4-year-old More Than Ready phenom (out of a Sunday Silence mare) is one powerful racehorse who’s proven recently that she doesn’t have to lead. The only query may be how she handles the unique Moonee Valley track, but she gets a five pound advantage over So You Think, as well as drops six pounds from her most recent victory in the G1 Toorak. If she goes with So You Think early, a speed duel could set up a surprise win by a closer like the other High Chaparral in here, Shoot Out. Tragically this week, Shoot Out’s regular jockey Stathi Katsidis was found dead by his fiancée, apparently after a 12-hour drinking binge with mates. Corey Brown takes the ride. Whobegotyou loves this track (with five wins in six starts), but not sure he wants the distance (he finished sixth in last year’s Cox Plate) or is even in the same class as the top two right now. However, for a bit of value in the exotics, consider the Kiwi-invader Wall Street and also Patinack Farm’s Trusting (Tale of the Cat) who’s never raced this far, but is out of a Zabeel mare named Legible who won the G2 Sandown Classic over 12 furlongs. He might very well be ready to peak.
The G2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup features a huge field of 15, and despite his post, I love Precedence who’s prepping here for the Melbourne Cup. Yet another High Chaparral colt Above Average looks to be rounding into form, though, and is a big chance. The other Moonee Valley race of keen interest is the G2 Schweppes, featuring my beloved Hot Danish and the undefeated mare Black Caviar, as well as the talented Melito. It’s all about the girls, and what a match-up! On this track, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 4-year-old colt True Persuasion give them a nice run for the money. Right now it looks like they will be running on a Dead 4 after some recent rain. Tune in to watch for free at Australianracing.com.