As we write this report, we are now two weeks away from the WS Cox Plate. Just when we think things, would be sorting themselves out, the situation just got a lot more cloudier.
Nominations, Numbers Don’t Add Up
As at Monday the 14th of October – two weeks out, it seems like the MVRC has a numbers problem.
19 horses remain in contention with only 14 slots available. 6 of those are taken.
3 are invites, these include: Lys Gracieux, Kluger, Danceteria, plus 3 who have won qualifying races.
These include Homesman, Kings Will Dream and Cape Of Good Hope.
Possibly added to the list as near certainties to run are Mystic Journey and Avilius, and that leaves 6 remaining.
There are names such as Gailo Chop, Humidor, Verry Elleegant, Black Heart Bart, Hartnell, Te Akau Shark, Dream Castle, and Castelvecchio (who is being talked up by his Sydney trainer Richard Litt), and the two winners of the Guineas races last weekend being Super Seth and Flit.
Some big calls have yet to be made, and I expect there to be some casualties.
The one stands out for demotion is Te Akau Shark, mainly because he has not won a Group 1 as yet.
Horses that we thought might be firming in contention now have question marks hanging over them, after the running of the Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes.
These include Avilius, Homesman and the Godolphin galloper Dream Castle.
All performed below par. On the other hand, the three placegetters Cape Of Good Hope, Black Heart Bart, Harlem and fifth place Humidor all put their hand up.
It was like turning back the clock, all without Winx being present.
All horses had a good rated track to race on, and this probably told in the result, as those preferring the cut out of the ground didn’t fare so well.
Cape Of Good Hope came home strongly to pip the evergreen Black Heart Bart on the line.
The latter is having a red letter spring campaign, the formerly retired 9 year old is enjoying his comeback, and making much younger horses look inferior.
On the other hand, the winner, ridden by Mark Zahra is a standout purchase for the Hayes Dabernig/Lindsay Park operation.
An astute buy if ever there was one.
Cape Of Good Hope is now aimed at the Cox Plate and McKinnon double, evenly spaced with two weeks in between.
Let’s hope he can improve on the result of his full brother Highland Reel who ran a third place to Winx in the 2015 Cox Plate edition, her first of four victories.
You have to a question the credentials of Avilius on his run.
For me he’s not a left-handed track specialist nor is he at his best on good going.
He might be marginally on the drift in the betting based on that effort. So too Homesman, who would want the jar out of the track to be in contention I suspect.
An on pace galloper like Gailo Chop could come into play and it wouldn’t surprise me if the elder horses came to the fore if they are able to get a start, and this after I suggested a few weeks back that maybe they should all be retired!
There is still life left in those old legs still.
The Three Year Old Question
And what about the three-year-old contenders Super Seth and Flit, who won the Caulfield and One Thousand Guineas respectively on the weekend?
If its connections decided to act, they would get in with a featherweight and surely set the cat among the pigeons if they lined up.
I am interested to know what the next two weeks holds for the 3 year olds, considering the nominations logjam.
No Melody Belle, Te Akau Shark Question Mark
Confirmation during last week that New Zealand mare Melody Belle will not be a starter in the Cox Plate.
Trainer Jamie Richards has decided to seek easier Group 1 kills in the Empire Rose Stakes instead, which is run on VRC Derby Day.
A wise move I would say.
Richards now has to worry about the nomination of his other stable star Te Akau Shark, as mentioned above.
My prediction for the race? I reckon it’s set up for an on pace event, a strong tempo with swoopers coming from the back, so long as clear air can be found for them.
All it takes is another Shamus Award type effort (2013) to determine the outcome if an on pace leader holds onto the end.
Or perhaps an Adelaide type effort (2014) or Kingston Town (1982), where a swooper comes from the back.
Cox Plate – latest market
Lys Gracieux is now the outright favourite, followed by Avilius with Mystic Journey on the third line of betting, with Cape Of Good Hope tucked in behind, after the weekends racing.
That’s all for this weeks WS Cox Plate Watch Report. Keep checking in with Kruzey.com.au for more, as we count down to the last weekend in October.