by Mitch Lamb

Who is running in the Cox Plate and why to consider betting them

Australia’s Weight for Age Championship, The Cox Plate has an honor roll littered with the greats of the turf, and has always been the benchmark race for the best middle distance gallopers around.

Winx Pedigree graphic

The legendary Winx has won the past four runnings of the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, a major part of her fabled story, and the only horse to ever do that. It’s meant that the 2019 edition is a bit of a clean slate for the race, and it’s attracted a full and highly competitive field, with the best local gallopers, but also several internationally trained entrants with genuine quality.

Here’s my rundown of each runner’s chances in the Cox Plate.

BLACK HEART BART

Trainer: Lindsay Smith

Jockey: Brad Rawiller

Once retired multimillion dollar earner has come back this prep under the care of master Perth trainer Lindsey Smith, who now has a base in Victoria and has been highly successful in doing that. It really was an amazing effort to get this horse not only back to the track, but actually winning a Group 1 with him two starts back in the Underwood Stakes was nothing short of astonishing. Followed that up with a brave second to Cape Of Good Hope in the Caulfield Stakes (G1) and you couldn’t say that he’s not without hope here. I’d leave him out of my top few but that may come back to bite me.

AVILIUS

Trainer: James Cummings

Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy

Godolphin import who has established himself amongst upper echelon of our weight for age brigade. Was seemingly set to start close to favorite for this up until, on face value at least, a slightly disappointing fourth in the Caulfield Stakes when heavily supported. The run was actually better than it may have appeared, and his late sectionals were as good as anything in the race. Would be no surprise whatsoever to see him bounce back and at the odds he looks set to start, I’ll be having something on.

KLUGER

Trainer: Tomokazu Takano

Jockey: Tommy Berry

High quality Japanese galloper who performed extremely well in Sydney earlier this year on his visit to Australia, running a very good fourth in the Doncaster Mile (G1), before a superb second to Winx in her final start in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1). Back in Japan, it’s clearly evident that he’s not as classy as Lys Gracieux, but he gets the tick for having traveled here and performed. He’s a place hope for mine.

HARLEM

Trainer: David Hayes, Tom Dabernig & Ben Hayes

Jockey: Dwayne Dunn

Dual Australian Cup (G1) winner, on both occasions at massive odds, and in fact those two wins, along with a Group 3 victory he had earlier in his Aussie career, are the only trio of victories he’s achieved since being imported here. He’s classy on his day, and his run in the Caulfield Stakes was an improved one, but he’s such a difficult horse to trust and I’ll be leaving him out.

HOMESMAN

Trainer: Liam Howley

Jockey: Ben Melham

Another import who has performed extremely well at times since arriving in Australia, including this prep where he convincingly won the Feehan Stakes (G2), then was beaten a nose by Black Heart Bart in the Underwood, before a somewhat below par effort in the Caulfield Stakes. Ideally wants some give in the ground to be at his very best. Will push forward early on, and if things go his way, he could bounce back.

KINGS WILL DREAM

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: Hugh Bowman

This jockey/trainer combo has of course won the past four Cox Plates with Winx, and although Kings Will Dream isn’t in the same ballpark has her quality-wise, he’s got enough to be competitive in this field. He looked pretty well in at the weights in the Turnbull (G1) and he was able to stave off stablemate Finche in the final stages to grab a Group 1. Barrier will make things tricky for him, and it may have put an end to his winning chances, but he’s obviously going very well and he thoroughly deserves his place in the field.

TE AKAU SHARK

Trainer: Jamie Richards

Jockey: Opie Bosson

New Zealand-trained four year old is still on an upward spiral. He was a bit of a controversial inclusion in the field over some older gallopers with Group 1s on their resume, something he doesn’t possess yet, but it can’t be denied that he is racing well, as his second in a strong Epsom Handicap (G1) was a fantastic effort. He needs to make the leap, and I’m not saying that won’t eventually happen, but it just might be too big a step at this stage.

DANCETERIA

Trainer: David Menuisier

Jockey: Jamie Spencer

Difficult to have a firm grasp on how this gelding’s international form lines up for a Cox Plate, but given that he ran within five lengths of Enable two starts back, then followed that up with a Group 1 win, albeit in perhaps a questionable German race, it’s hard to say he’s not without a chance. My gut feeling is he is just below what will be required to win this, but, again, couldn’t say with great conviction that he’s no hope.

LYS GRACIEUX

Trainer: Yoshito Yahagi

Jockey: Damian Lane

Star Japanese mare who will jump favorite here, and, quite honestly, if she had drawn a better gate, I’d be saying she’s a good thing. Even with the wide gate, I find it very difficult to go against her. We’re talking about a mare that is amongst the best middle distance performers in her homeland, and we all know how good the Japanese depth is. She’s also traveled away from home previously and run extremely well, going to Hong Kong twice for two huge efforts in Group 1 races. They probably push forward on her, and as long as she isn’t made to work too hard, she simply looks a cut above her rivals here.

MAGIC WAND

Magic Wand
(Horsephotos.com)

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: Ryan Moore

High quality Irish mare, who doesn’t have a great winning strike rate, but has been tested in the very best of company throughout her career. She’s clearly going really well at the moment – it took America’s best middle distance turf performer in Bricks And Mortar to run her down in the Arlington Million (G1), and then she ran a game second to arguably the second best mare in Europe in Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1). Draws well, and the O’Brien/Moore combo have tasted success in this race when Adelaide prevailed five years ago. I can see her running a great race here and have her right in the mix.

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

Trainer: David Hayes, Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes

Jockey: Mark Zahra

Former Ballydoyle galloper has been imported out here to the Lindsay Park team, but Coolmore have stayed on as owners. The full brother to Highland Reel probably secured an Australian stud career with a victory first time out in the Caulfield Stakes and does hail from one of the very best Australian families in the Stud Book. Clearly thriving for his new yard and goes into this as a major player.

MYSTIC JOURNEY

Trainer: Adam Trinder

Jockey: Anthony Darmanin

One-time favorite for this race who has lost a little bit of luster at her past couple of starts, perhaps unfairly so, as both runs were full of merit. This has always been the target and her stable remains extremely confident she is going to peak here. Should get every chance from the barrier and, if she runs the mile and a quarter right out, she will be there when the whips are cracking.

VERRY ELLEEGANT

Trainer: Chris Waller

Jockey: James McDonald

Best staying filly of her generation completed the premier fillies’ Autumn double of the Vinery Stud Stakes (G1) and Australian Oaks (G1), both in brilliant fashion. Her first two runs back were both over unsuitable trips, before she stepped up to the mile and quarter and ran down Samadoubt in a good edition of the Hill Stakes (G2). She’s a mare with huge ability and she looks set to peak perfectly here. Ideally wants sting out of the ground, and if she gets that, I see her as one of the main threats to Lys Gracieux.

CASTELVECCHIO

Trainer: Richard Litt

Jockey: Craig Williams

Amongst the best three-year-olds of his generation and does profile extremely well for the typical classic-aged galloper who runs with a good level of success in a Cox Plate. He’s always given every indication this would be his best distance as he got older, and he showed last start in the Spring Champion (G1) that the trip won’t be an issue. He’s a big, strong young galloper, with plenty of upside and he’s definitely one of the main players here.

Cox Plate Race Summary and Tip

After four years of Winx dominance, it’s almost a strange feeling to have a Cox Plate without her, and it really has meant that many trainers genuinely believe they have a chance to win it. That’s reflected by the capacity field and evenness. But, in the end, I truly believe that none of Lys Gracieux’s rivals are in her class and as long as she gets a little bit of luck in transit, I think she’ll be winning. Her main dangers for me are Avilius, Verry Elleegant, Castelvecchio, Magic Wand, Cape Of Good Hope and Mystic Journey, in that order. Should be a fantastic race whatever the scenario.