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Cox Plate preview from Racetrack Ralphy

Once again, Racetrack Ralphy has given me permission for this big Australian feature race to use material from his app, here are his form comments on the Cox Plate. Ralph Horowitz produces speed maps and form comments for every Melbourne metropolitan meeting via the 'Racetrack Ralphy' app for iPhones. It's even available in the UK iTunes store as well (search for 'Racetrack Ralphy'), so it's great for expats like me on the other side of the world! A bargain at £1.49 or $1.99 per meeting.

I'll post the speed map shortly. In saddlecloth order:

SHOOT OUT has had 6 tries at this distance range for two 3rds, three 4ths and a 5th. All of those were at Group 1 level and – perhaps significantly – none of those were “Grand Final” races which this clearly is for him. (He’s had a Derby which he won, a Melbourne Cup and a Doncaster as his previous target races so this is a new dynamic.) Jockey Hugh Bowman is an absolute elite level rider and has ridden him in his past 9 starts which have included two Group 1 wins. It adds up to him running very well and probably not winning. A value play for trifecta players.

SINCERO is really hard to assess as; a/ He’s clearly a fresher and stronger horse than he was last year when 9th with lots going wrong in the run. And b/ World Class Group 1 gun Michael Rodd is riding. He was absolutely dynamic when a first up winner of the Memsie, before lacking a turn of foot in the Underwood Stakes 2nd up when a flat 5th. In the Caulfield Stakes he ran the same last 600 as OCEAN PARK in the Caulfield Stakes off a slow tempo indicating he’s ready for a peak run here. The barrier is against and he appears to be a better miler than 2000 type, but he is one of the more talented $31 short you could ever back.

GLASS HARMONIUM should have two prices! One if he jumps and one if he doesn’t! In 2011 his three 2000 Group 1 runs saw a 0.4 3rd in Brisbane – his first Australian prep – a nose 2nd to DECEMBER DRAW in the Turnbull Stakes and a strong winner of the McKinnon Stakes. In last year’s Cox Plate he bombed the start and it was game over, while earlier this year his failure in the Australian Cup preceded a wind operation. He was terrific resuming in the Rupert Clarke before nothing going right from the outside alley in the Toorak last start. He could control this race and there’s a big chance the track will be significantly leader advantaged. At his best he’d be right in this, but is he at his best?

GREEN MOON comes off a last start win the Turnbull Stakes – gawd bless him for App followers – but he was advantaged at the weights and he only beat his $31 stablemate SEVILLE by a neck and the 3rd and 4th horses DECEMBER DRAW and VOILA ICI were dismal in last week’s Caulfield Cup. In addition owner Lloyd Williams would love to win this race, but is obsessed by the Melbourne Cup and there is no way he’d compromise this bloke’s prep for Flemington so will he have the turn of foot? The case for of course is that he’s probably significantly progressed since his win as he was only 3rd up, while Craig Williams is in the zone, and unlike last start where he was “cuddled” a bit in a sprint home, he’ll probably make this more of a staying war to blunt the 3 year olds weight advantage (see speed map). A major winning chance but suspect he is slightly under the odds.

REKINDLED INTEREST is a Group 1 standard talent, but strip back the endless list of excuses and the fact is he has won 2 from his last 18 starts and on 13 of those occasions he was $10 and under in the market. His two wins were at this track and he was – as he often is – unlucky in last year’s Cox Plate when 3rd, but I’m very confident that this is a much stronger edition. One I definitely won’t have in any bets and if he happens to win or run a place I’ll cop it as these type of horses are poor punting plays.

LINTON was OK ridden out the back in the DATO when a first-up 4th behind HAPPY TRAILS, before being terrible when going forward in the Turnbull. That tells you he’s coming into this off a poor run and will be ridden dead cold. After those two fundamentals are included, it isn’t worth digging deeper.

HAPPY TRAILS got the money here – gawd bless him for App followers 2 starts back in the DATO over GREEN MOON – before just whacking away when stepping up to the 2000 in the Turnbull when an honest 2.3 length 5th. It’s hard not to look at his form and think that he has a sprinter-milers turn of foot, but doesn’t have the staying motor to win this.

ETHIOPIA is a seriously raw talent who won the AJC Derby as a 3 start maiden going into that race. The headline at this stage is more impressive than the form as “nothing” has progressed from that race since. This bloke though has progressed to being competitive in both his runs this time in behind HAPPY TRAILS and GREEN MOON. (4.9 lengths 7th off a tough run and a 3.3 length 6th off a slightly interrupted run.) However it’s one thing to be competitive in this grade and another to have the killer punch and while the jockey Rhys McLeod knows him well, he isn’t a Group 1 regular and as a strong rule elite jockeys win elite races.

OCEAN PARK comes into this race off a hatrick of Group 1 wins and is the only one doing so. Why isn’t he favourite? Umm… don’t know! In each of the wins he has shown a serious turn of foot that surely is required to win this. First up in New Zealand he was held up at the top of the straight before gaining a late split to beat their best elite horses – 2nd, 4th and 5th have all since run very well – before dominating at Caulfield in the Underwood when sizzling home in 22.56. I loved his last run when doing just enough to beat ALCOPOP and SINCERO off a slow pace, underlining a/ He’s a winner and b/ He isn’t coming into this race off a gutbuster that many of these are. Glen Boss is in sizzling form – even by his all-time-great standards – and the only slight query I can find is a slightly tricky barrier that elite jockeys overcome on a regular basis.

MORE JOYOUS is an all-time great who simply couldn’t overcome the huge 60kgs impost she was asked to carry in the Toorak on top of the tough run she had in transit. She wasn’t disappointing in her performance, just disappointing to those who stupidly took the stupid price of $2:25 on the day. The facts are she’s got 4 runs into a prep 3 times and on each of those occasions she’s dominantly won at Group 1 level. She’s had 2 tries at 2000 for a dominant win earlier this year over MANIGHAR and was a tiring 5th to world-class superstar SO YOU THINK in 2010 when 5th up and not as strong a mare as she is now. She will be on-pace and a massive chance at very good odds for an out and out champion.

SOUTHERN SPEED comes off the worst run of her career when a terrible 7 length 15th in the Turnbull and Glen Boss couldn’t sack her quick enough as his spring mount. She was then scratched from last week’s Caulfield Cup due to a poor barrier and then draws the 2nd outside alley here. Can her poor run be forgiven? Possibly, as she clearly was in a cantankerous mood on the day and it was so out of character. She was home in the clear best 11.45 when 4th to OCEAN PARK two start back and was beaten an eyelash in the Australian Cup earlier this year over 2000 at WFA. On her best she is in the race but is she at her best?

PIERRO had the toughest possible run in the Caulfield Guineas last start and was still good enough to only get picked off late by ALL TOO HARD. He started $1:22 which when stripped back means he would have won that Caulfield Guineas 8 out 10 times and given the way the race unfolded, I’m comfortable with that assessment. He had won 8 out of 8 prior to that and was building the record of an immortal and a bounce back here would elevate him back to that platform. 7kgs less just HAS to help, but the historical negative that stands out is 3yo’s that fail in this race off gut-busters and the Caulfield Guineas WAS a gut-buster. I’ll risk him slightly for that reason.

ALL TOO HARD not only bounced back to the early boom on him when picking off PIERRO in the Caulfield Guineas, but made it 3 wins from his 3 Melbourne starts. Does that mean he is a “Melbourne” superstar, or did he simply beat inferior ones in his first two starts and then pick off a softened up champ in the Guineas? Time will tell but he has to peak a 2nd time here and that is a historical challenge.

PROISIR got the first “race” of his 4 start career last start and just failed behind potential superstar IT’S A DUNDEEL with a massive 5 lengths back to 3rd horse HONORIUS. (Who ran ok last Saturday at Caulfield.) His previous 3 dominant wins showed his talent, so he is the real “X-factor” here with the different form and the 3yo’s featherweight, and gets a strong Melbourne-based elite rider in Craig Newitt.

SUGGESTED BET: Very keen each way on OCEAN PARK and am amazed at his odds. Will be having a smaller bet on MORE JOYOUS and want to wait to see how the market treats the 3yos.

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