Another Saturday, another $3 million race. The Cox Plate – run at 5.40pm (AEDT) at Moonee Valley on Saturday – is considered to be the weight-for-age championship of Australasia.
The 2040m race is a mixture of speed, strength and staying prowess and the cauldron of Moonee Valley creates a fantastic atmosphere.
Last year, ADELAIDE recorded a huge come-from-behind victory and trainer Aiden O’Brien is back again this year with HIGHLAND REEL.
HIGHLAND REEL had a very similar preparation to that of ADELAIDE, winning the Secretariat Stakes in Chicago by 5.3 lengths in August, and is a serious racehorse that has drawn perfectly. Looks tough to beat.
Then there’s the people’s horse – THE CLEANER.
THE CLEANER wasn’t disgraced in 2014 and seems to be going as well as ever this spring. He is an amazing horse.
Jockey Noel Callow will send the eight-year-old to the front as Steven Arnold did last year and run the field along at a breakneck speed. It would be a fairytale story if this grand galloper could get the job done here but like last year, it looks a tough ask.
CRITERION is a globe trotter who stamped himself as one of, if not the best horse in Australia with a superb win in the Caulfield Stakes.
He beat a majority of his rivals in the Cox Plate in that event, including the Caulfield Cup winner MONGOLIAN KHAN. It was the five-year-old’s first run in almost two months and plenty of improvement is to be expected from that win, which is scary for those that finished behind him.
Drawn to get a lovely run from barrier 7 and he is the horse to beat.
Outside of the aforementioned HIGHLAND REEL, the international contingent is strong.
AROD really caught the attention of Australian form analysts when running one of the best middle-distance horses in the world, SOLOW, to half a length in the Sussex Stakes.
The run was very good and a repeat of that here and you would have to think he can figure in the money.
GAILO CHOP was beaten home by CRITERION in the Prince Of Wales in June but he has reportedly been working well in Australia. May go around at decent value but that said, have to lean the way of others.
Like last week’s Caulfield Cup, Chris Waller has three runners and they all look chances.
WINX possibly has the best finishing burst of any runner in the land. She has won four on end and the majority of these have to be seen to be believed. The mare is flying but this is the acid test.
Doubt she has faced a race of this pressure in her career and not convinced Moonee Valley will suit with the short straight.
KERMADEC was slightly disappointing in that Caulfield Stakes behind CRITERION.
He may have felt the firm surface on that occasion and Moonee Valley may suit more. Hard to be confident he can turn the result around on CRITERION.
Look for Waller’s third runner, PREFERMENT, to be charging late with an eye to the future. Despite winning the Turnbull Stakes, he is still a bit of an underrated galloper. Is this a lead-up to the Melbourne Cup? That is the concern.
FAWKNER was our selection in the race last year and he ran a good second.
He seemed to be going just as well as last year before putting in a shocker in the Caulfield Stakes behind CRITERION. Forgive his last run and he must be considered a chance, although barrier 14 does not help whatsoever.
HAPPY TRAILS is an old warhorse and his second in the Caulfield Stakes last start was pleasing. Barrier 13 makes his task difficult, though.
In summary, it looks a fascinating race and it is wonderful to see it attract such a strong international contingent.
CRITERION has to be considered the best of the locally trained chances. HIGHLAND REEL is an immense talent and should get plenty of things to suit. He is our top rated.
Have to respect AROD with the form around SOLOW. If playing exotics, a case can be made for a number of others to fill the placings.
HAPPY TRAILS, FAWKNER, WINX and GAILO CHOP all have claims, amongst others, and even THE CLEANER and MOURINHO can be around the mark without surprising at all.
TRIAL FILES COX PLATE TIPS:
1st: #13 HIGHLAND REEL ($5.50 to win*)
2nd: #1 CRITERION ($6 to win*)
3rd: #8 AROD ($9 to win*)
* All odds courtesy of Sportsbet and correct at 5pm (AEDT) on Thursday.