October 23, 2009

A Visit Down Under - The Cox Plate

G’day Mate. With a slight lull in American racing until the Breeders’ Cup, I will take this opportunity to introduce you to a little racing down under. It is the middle of Springtime in Australia and the racing season is at its’ peak. Australia is a nation of sports fanatics and racing is high on their list. The AFL, or Australian Rules Football as we know it, is the biggest of all the sports in the nation, but after that, the great sport of horse racing is right there in the hearts of the sport minded. Excitement is in the air, as tomorrow is one of the biggest days in Australian racing with the running of the Cox Plate.

The W.S Cox Plate, currently called the Tatts Cox Plate for the sponsor, was inaugurated in 1922, and it was named in honor of the founder of Moonee Valley Racing Club, William Samuel Cox. Moonee Valley is one of the major race courses of Australia and is found just outside of Melbourne. Melbourne being the second largest city in Australia, and located in the Southeast corner of the nation. The Cox Plate is held in late October each year and falls between the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups in the Spring Racing Carnival. The Cox Plate is considered by most as the second biggest race held in Australia only behind the Melbourne Cup. Although to some, it is the ultimate race in the country. Ryan Martin, a former jockey down under explained it to me this way, “The race I look forward to the most is the Cox Plate. It is the greatest race in our country. It’s run at Moonee Valley, which is my favorite track. The pressure is always on, and then they go early at the valley down past the school at the 600m, only the toughest of the toughest survive and win....To me this is the one single race I would love to win as a jockey!”

Whether or not it is regarded in the same fervor as the Melbourne Cup by Australians, the Cox Plate is regarded as the best weight-for-age race in the country and it carries as much history as it does prestige.

The Cox Plate has always attracted a field of the best horses in the nation with a national honor roll of champions. The famed list of stars to win the race include: Phar Lap in 1930 & 1931, Rising Fast in 1954, Tobin Bronze in 1967, Gunsynd in 1972, the ill-fated Dulcify in 1979, Kingston Town in 1980-1982, Strawberry Road in 1983, Might and Power in 1998, Northerly in 2001 & 2002, Fields of Omagh in 2003 & 2006, and the great mares Sunline in 1999 & 2000, and Makybe Diva in 2005. Make no mistake, stamping your name on the trophy is a huge accomplishment. The Cox Plate is contested at 2,040 meters (slightly more than 1 ¼ miles) over the Moonee Valley turf course and the horses run in the same left to right direction familiar to us in the States.

In this year’s edition, a full field on 14 runners will vie for the prize. Including:

1. El Segundo
2. Zipping
3. Vision And Power
4. Nom Du Jeu
5. Scenic Shot
6. Black Piranha
7. Sir Slick
8. Road To Rock
9. Speed Gifted
10. Whobegotyou
11. Heart Of Dreams
12. Rock Kingdom
13. Manhattan Rain
14. So You Think

Whobegotyou is the favorite for the race and is trained by Mark Kavanagh, the same trainer who won the race last year. The son of Street Cry is a perfect 4 for 4 over the Moonvee Valley course. Whobegotyou has of late, been tangling with his top rival Heart of Dreams, the likely second choice of the bettors. The English bred gelding, Speed Gifted and the lightly raced 3-year-old, So You Think are also given a big chance. Female conditioner, Gai Waterhouse, has two entrants, Rock Kingdom and Manhattan Rain, the former being supplemented for $130,000 in the $3 million (just under $2.8 million U.S.) race. Two 8-year-olds will contest the race again; Zipping was 2nd last year and El Segundo won the 2007 Cox Plate.

I have never been to a running of the W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley Racing Club, nor for that matter have I ever been to Australia, but it is a dream of mine to visit the country, after all the racing is too good to pass. Someday, yours truly will be there in person living out a dream.


LDP said...

Interesting. I have never watch an Australian race before, but it seems very interesting. If I can find a channel that shows it I will watch. I only wish racing was as popular here as it is in Ausi.