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Cox Plate preview II

And the alternative angle from Mitch Fenton. Certainly a few contrasting opinions to the previous post!

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Sportingbet Cox Plate
Group I, 2040m WFA
Form Guide here

By Mitch Fenton

Website
Twitter: @weekndkngracing
Facebook: /weekendking



1.SACRED FALLS (NZ) – 9 – C.WALLER / Z.PURTON
ODDS: $6.50 (early fixed-odds prices from TAB)

The term champion, as many old-timers will tell you, is one bandied around far to often when it comes to modern day racehorses. But in my humble opinion this horse is a champion, if he can win the Cox Plate I believe it becomes an undoubtable fact.

Only champions can win back to back Doncaster Handicaps, Australia’s premier mile race, and he’s done exactly that. Add to that another Gr1 Randwick mile win in the George Main, plus the Gr1 NZ 2,000 Guineas when trained in New Zealand and you see one hell of a resume.

He’s had a terrific preparation for the race which has been Chris Waller’s target for the horse since his slashing second behind It’s A Dundeel in the 2000m Queen Elizabeth in the Autumn.

He was sound resuming in the Warwick Stakes when fourth beaten a length and a half on a heavy track, then second-up he finished fourth beaten 1.5L also on the heavy.

He exploded to his brilliant best third up crushing a quality field in the Gr1 George Main over the Randwick mile. He travelled perfectly the whole way, but struggled to get a run on straightening, but the world class riding skills of Zac Purton came to the fore and he angled back inside to get a clear run. Once he did get clear the horse exploded and put the race to bed in an instant. He won officially by 1.5L but Purton eased him down to a trot on the line. Despite that he still ran faster last 400m and 200m sectionals than Caulfield Cup placegetter Lucia Valentina who was flying home late herself.

Last time out in the Caulfield Stakes he was terrific again. From barrier 12 of 12 Purton snicked him straight back and across to last on the fence, where he settled down some 10-12L off the leader Side Glance. The lead time was very modest, some 2.6L slower than the class benchmark, so the fact the Sacred Falls was able to still run on so strongly from the tail and get within 2.5L of the winner, was very impressive. He clocked the fastest last 600m in the race and had the second fastest 400m and 200m splits – with Purton looking after him late when no chance of winning. He was 21 days between runs in the Caulfield Stakes, so no doubt that run would have tightened him right up to be peaking on his ‘grand final’ day.

He won’t get so far back this time around but from gate 9 Purton will need to weave a tiny bit of magic to get him into a good trailing roll midfield, although this task could be aided somewhat by the likely cracking hot tempo The Cleaner will set and likely string them out a bit. Should have beaten It’s A Dundeel in the Queen Elizabeth, and that horse is by far and away the benchmark of 2000m horses in 2014 in Australia. Handles the Valley no problem, will be very hard to beat!

2.FAWKNER – 4 – R.HICKMOTT / N.HALL
ODDS: $4.80

Last year’s Caulfield Cup winner who has proven in his two runs back this spring that he is a genuine WFA superstar!

Speaking of champions, the last horse the win the Caulfield Cup and then back up 12 months later and win the Cox Plate was the great Might and Power, who lead all the way to win the 1998 edition after scoring in the 1997 Caulfield Cup. In between those two wins Might and Power won the Melbourne Cup though, Fawkner tried valiantly last year but could only manage a game 6th. You’ll never see another horse quite like Might and Power but that fact that you can draw some parallels between the pair speaks volumes about Fawkner’s quality. If he can win this, which he has a massive chance of doing, he too would fall into the rarefied ‘champion’ class.

First up this campaign he was beaten a nostril by the high-flying Dissident in the Gr 1600m Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. Dissident was coming off a devastating win in the Gr1 1400m Memsie Stakes, so he had the fitness edge but Fawkner still managed to get within the barest possible margin of winning the race.

Last start in the 2000m Gr1 Caulfield Stakes, he was able to go one better and salute the judge. Nick Hall gave him an absolutely charmed run in transit juts behind the speed and he managed to get the job done, beating Criterion by a long head. It was a solid sort of win but I thought given the run he had in transit he was entitled to win easier. But maybe that’s not so much a knock on Fawkner but a glowing endorsement of how well Criterion ran?

Put into perspective, Criterion was 3L off Fawkner at the 400m and got beaten a head. Sacred Falls was 5L behind him at the 400m only to be beaten 2.5L in the finish eased down.

He’s again drawn to get the perfect run from gate 4, and there’s no doubt he’ll be peaking here, but I think at the current price he’s a touch of ‘unders’.

He’s very good, and I may well end up being totally wrong but I’m leaning towards others.

3.SIDE GLANCE (GB) – 7 – J.SPENCER / A.BALDING
ODDS: $51

Globe trotting, English trained gelding who returns to Melbourne after snaring last year’s Gr1 Mackinnon Stakes on VRC Derby Day at Flemington. After the week before having finished a fading 6th in the Cox Plate beaten 4L behind Shamus Award.

He ran in the race last year having come off a 3rd placing in the Gr1 Arlington Millios in the USA beaten 2L, and he follows the same path this year, having again run third in that same race beaten 2.5L this time around.

He’s run honestly in big races all around the world including; two fourth-placed finishes in the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup at Meydan – fifth in both the Hong Kong and Singapore Cups and as previously mentioned two places in Gr1 races in the USA. But despite all those good runs he’s only won the one Gr1 in 17 attempts, which was last year’s Mackinnon, which is always at least two or three levels below the Cox Plate.

Typically honest in the Caulfield Stakes where he led at modest fractions, before battling on to finish third beaten just 2L.

Strikes a much stronger Cox Plate than the one he failed in 12 months ago, and arrives here in virtually identical form. Hard to see him improving enough the challenge the placings.

4.HAPPY TRAILS – 2 – D.OLIVER / P.BESHARA
ODDS: $11
Enormous effort in this race last year when finishing second, steaming home from well back to just miss Shamus Award on the post who lead all the way and had the huge weight pull 3yos receive under the WFA scale.

Has raced with next to no luck this campaign, never getting a clear passage in the Memsie or Turnbull.

The only two runs you can assess him of are his terrific second in the Underwood Stakes beaten a nose by Foreteller and his latest run when fifth beaten 2.8L in the Caulfield Stakes.

The Underwood run was terrific, it was a glimpse of the form he was showing us 12 months ago when he nearly win the Cox Plate.

His last run in the Caulfield Stakes however wasn’t the run of a coming Cox Plate winner. Whilst he still ground home well, he lacked that zip that saw him get within an inch last year. To me he just doesn’t seem to be going as well as he was 12 months ago.

Will get a good run and Oliver takes the reigns from gate 2, but I rate him a place chance at best.

5.FORETELLER (GB) – 1 – T.BERRY / C.WALLER
ODDS: $21

Was the run of the race when fourth in the race last year (and I’m not just saying that because I backed him…!), he ran the fastest last 1200m – 1000m – 800m – 600m & 400m sectionals of the race, but Newitt just set him to big of a task from so far back in the field.

Is certainly going every bit as well as he was 12 months ago when he ran so well. He was the run of the race 1st up when fourth in the Lawrence behind Star Rolling. Again ran a huge race second up when fourbehind The Cleaner in the Dato at MV. That day he spotted the tearaway Tasmanian 10L at the 800m mark and got within a length in the finish, peeling off the fastest last 600,400 & 200m sectionals of the race.

Broke through to win in the Gr1 Underwood when he just nosed out Happy Trails, flashing home late.

Only fair last start in the Caulfield Stakes, finishing 8th well beaten by 5L. That run probably sums him up in this grade, he’ll run home very well but usually find one or two better.

That being said he’s the best each way value in the race at $21, if he got the breaks go his way, a win wouldn’t completely shock me.

6.THE CLEANER – 14 – S.ARNOLD / M.BURLES
ODDS: $10
The horse they call “The Lion of Longford”…The ‘feel-good’ story of the 2014 Cox Plate.

He arrives here off the back of a hat-trick of Moonee Valley wins – an open handicap carrying 60.5kg, the Gr2 Dato Tan Chin Nam and the Gr3 JRA Cup last start over the Cox Plate distance of 2040m.

He only knows one way the race, go to the front, roll along and say catch me if you can!

He’ll have to work across from the outside gate of 14, which no horse in some four decades has successfully done to win. He’ll ensure the tempo is genuine, but judging by his JRA Cup win, I think this class will be too hot for him, as much as I would love to see him win the race from a sentimental standpoint. There’ll be a lot more pressure on a lot sooner, and it’ll be the genuine best horses in Australia and a couple from overseas chasing him down this time around, not Mourinho, Sangster, Mr O’Ceirin ect….

Hope so, but I can’t have him.

7.GUEST OF HONOUR (IRE) – 10 – C.WILLIAMS / M.BOTTI
ODDS: $81

I honestly have to question what this Pommie trained entire is doing even getting a run in our nation’s premier horse race!

He has one Group race win to his credit, which came at Gr2 level over a mile in Britain, where he beat home Mull of Killough…just!

Mull of Killough for some crazy reason was admitted into last year’s Cox Plate field where he finish 11th beaten nearly 9L. He then ran in a listed 1800m race on Derby Day and the best he could manage was 3rd! So needless to say anymore, that form is useless for a race of this calibre. He’s had one 2000m run where he flopped, with all his best runs being over the mile.

I won’t turn this political, but why the MVRC let a horse like this in the field instead of a local horse like Mourinho or Chivalry (who were both balloted out), who would have more chance of winning than this slug, I can’t answer.

Hope he stays out of the way!!

8.CRITERION (NZ) – 6 – J.MCDONALD / D.PAYNE
ODDS: $10

4 year old gelding that was dominant in Sydney’s Autumn carnival once he got out too a suitable staying trip.
Thrashed a quality field in the Gr1 Rosehill Guineas in March, winning by an ever widening 3.5L. Treating a field full of stars with disdain…including;

~Cameron Handicap winner and Epsom placegetter HOOKED,
~winner of 2 Group 1’s this Spring and leading Cox Plate hope before bleeding last start DISSIDENT
~2013 Cox Plate winner SHAMUS AWARD

He then backed up that effort with a gutsy AJC Derby win on a bottomless Randwick track, it appeared more that class got him home that day, rather than him being an out and out stayer!

He’s had four runs this prep and he’s progressed terrifically and looks set to peak here.

First up he was a length and a half of Tiger Tees in the Warwick Stakes over 1400m.

Seventh beaten 5L second up in the 1600m Chelmsford where he ran right of the track and didn’t see himself, but was vetted and cleared of any issues.

Third-up he got out to 2000m Hill Stakes, which I firmly believe is his ideal trip – in four goes at the 2000m trip he’s won once and had three seconds : won the Gr1 Rosehill Guineas, runner up in last year’s Gr1 Spring Champion, runner up in the Gr2 Hill Stakes and then last start runner up in the Gr1 Caulfield Stakes behind Fawkner.

His Caulfield Stakes run was the run of the race for mine! He settled back worse than mid-field on the fence. Was held up passing the 600m mark. Ran up behind leader in the early stages of the straight, before finally hooking around the heels of eventual winner Fawkner around the 200 mark and charging to the line to just miss out. He clearly ran the fastest last 400m and 200m sectionals of the race, his last 200m when he finally got clear was ultra impressive.

James McDonald, Australia’s form rider, takes the mount off Hugh Bowman who is suspended, so that’s definitely of no detriment to the horse's hopes.

He’s a horse who can take a while to wind up, so a Cox Plate should suit him down to the ground as jockeys take off early and the pressure goes on sooner than it would in any other 2000m race. Having won over 2400m, you can rest assured a high pressure 2040m race won’t be an issue for his staying capacity.

Massive chance!

9.SILENT ACHIEVER (NZ) – 11 – N.RAWILLER / R.JAMES
ODDS: $13

The forgotten horse this spring really after starring during the Sydney Autumn carnival where she rounded out a hat trick of Gr1 wins by taking the 2000m Ranvet Stakes and 2400m BMW, beating home It’s A Dundeel on both occasions.

Has only been fair in her three runs this campaign although it does pay to remember that all her best form is from 2000m – 2400m, so you can’t read too much into her first two efforts over 1400m in the Memsie and 1800m in the Underwood….But that said you would have liked to see her finding the line better than she did in those race still.

Last start in the Turnbull again she was only very average. Oliver got her into clear air at the top of the long Flemington straight but she only plugged away. Shoreham was 3.3L behind her at the 400m mark and beat her home. No knock on Shoreham, he was a top hope in the Gr3 Geelong Cup during the week. But I say HOPE and GROUP 3. This is the Australasian WFA Championship!

My assessment of her is simply she’s not as effective the ‘Melbourne way of going” as she is the “Sydney way”! In 18 anti-clockwise / Sydney way run she’s had 8 wins and 5 places – a win strike of 44% and in the placings 72% of the time.

In 11 clockwise / Melbourne way runs, she’s won twice and been unplaced on all other nine occasions for a win strike rate of just 18% and a place strike rate of 18%. It’s a big discrepancy.

All told I can’t see her figuring in this!

10.ROYAL DESCENT – 3 – G.BOSS / C.WALLER
ODDS: $11

Hasn’t been the ‘punters pal’ this prep having had four starts and finishing second on all four occasions. In two of those runner up efforts, the Gr2 Chelmsford and the Gr1 Epsom, she’s gone down by the very narrowest of margins, a nose! You’d love to own her though because she gives her all each start and inevitably comes home with a decent cheque.

It’s been 18 months and 13 starts now since she last won a race, which amazing was the Gr1 AJC Oaks over 2400m, which she won by a whopping 10L. Her three other wins have also been very dominant, the Gr3 Adrian Know (2.5L), Rosehill 3yo BM75 (3L) and a Canterbury maiden (2.5L).

What these stats suggest to me is that when she’s locked in a dog fight, in a driving go to the line she’s not at her best. She shies away from the fight….

I don’t think she’ll be at all suited by the high-pressure ‘cauldron’ which is the Cox Plate.

On form she’s a great hope. She gave Epsom winner 3kg in weight last time when beaten a nose and was gallant chasing home Sacred Falls in the George Main the start prior.

However when a horse is racking up so many placings I regard it as something psychological with the horse, not a continued run of bad luck! Might run 2nd??? She seems to love doing it -- Very much doubt she can win!

11.ADELAIDE (IRE) – 13 – R.MOORE / A.O’BRIEN
ODDS: $7

All-conquering Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has prepared this colt, with the horse to be transferred to Chris Waller and prepared locally following this run.

Very much disadvantaged under the WFA scale because by northern-hemisphere standards he’s still only a 3 year old, but southern hemisphere he’s classed as a 4 year old. That means he carries 56kg, 6.5kg more than our local 3yo colts and geldings are asked to carry (Ed. - half a year older matters a lot of 3yos). That’s a pivotal factor.

Hasn’t missed the placings in his seven start career, with three wins and four minor placings to his name. However all seven of those runs have been in races restricted to 3 year olds. He’s yet to tackle the older horses. Given the fact he does meet seasoned, tough and classy older horses here minus the weight relief I really don’t rate him a winning chance at all. At $7 he’s the best lay in the race.

I’ve watched him race abroad (even backed him during the Royal Ascot carnival when a well beaten second) and while he has ability and is a lovely looking colt, he hasn’t shown himself to be any world beater. If he were I very much doubt he’d be sent to Australia, with a race like the Arc having just been run.

LAY OF THE DAY.

12.ALMALAD – 8 – C.NEWITT / G.WATERHOUSE
ODDS: $41

Looked like he could be a star at two when he won three from three including the Gr1 JJ Atkins on Stradbroke Day at Eagle Farm, but hasn’t found that next gear needed to go on and be a dominant 3yo.

Whacked away in the Run to the Rose (ninth) first up before showing improvement to finish fourth in the Golden Rose beaten 1.6L. Was never going to win that day but did box on like a horse looking for further.

Sure enough next start over a mile in the Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley he impressed winning the Gr3, but the form to come out of that race has proven to be second or third class.

Took on the cream of the three year old crop last start in the Caulfield Guineas and crumbled under the pressure. He went forward and parked outside Rich Enuff but was quickly beaten passing the 600m and dropped right out to finish the race 8th beaten 7L. Rich Enuff was able to keep running and only get run over late.

This will be another high pressure race and with The Cleaner engaged, it’ll be nothing short of trench warfare up the front where it’s likely Almalad will head, with just 49.5kg on his back.

The 49.5kg 3yos carry is always a huge factor, usually because they can roll forward and make the older horses with their much bigger weights have to chase from a long way out. However with the expected tempo, to be a hot one, I think we’ll see a repeat of the Guineas from this Waterhouse horse where it was just too much acid.

Don’t fancy!

13.SWEYNESSE – 12 – C.SCHOFIELD / J.O’SHEA
ODDS: $26

Lovely looking 3yo colt by Lonhro who won his first four starts including the Spring Stakes and Gloaming Stakes both at Group 3 level.

Ran third last start in the Gr1 Spring Champion, in what many dubbed a match race between Sweynesse and Gr1 Flight Stakes winning filly First Seal. McEvoy and Collett rode as though it was a match race themselves taking of before the turn and matching motors, only for Hampton Court to pounce and finish right over that top after the fancied pair had run each other into the ground.

Poorly drawn out in gate 12 so I assume they’d have no alternative than to roll forward into what will be a suicide speed set by The Cleaner. But he might be able to slot in just behind them.

On what I’ve seen of him he’s not brilliant enough to win a Cox Plate, although I could be wrong, but he’s a definite place hope and I’d be including him in multiples most definitely.

14.WANDJINA – 5 – D.YENDALL / G.WATERHOUSE
ODDS: $41

Started 100/1 in the Caulfield Guineas and had it not been for the fact he’s trained by Gai, he probably would have been 500/1 on form! Going into the race he’d had eight starts for a solitary win, which came in a 3yo NMW at Warwick Farm in February this year. His three runs in Melbourne had been very ordinary.

But as Gai’s can so often do, he pulled out an enormous run on the big day! He sat back in 12th position and rattled home posting the fastest last 600,400 and 200m splits of the race to just nab third placing. It was a good run, but given the fact that the leader Rich Enuff ran along 9L faster than average it was set-up for backmarkers to make ground late. (Just shows how good Rich Enuff is!!!)

The horse Wandjina made his run in the home straight with and beat home by a nose, Kumaon, came out and flopped last Saturday, so that’s not the best sign.

Clearly looks like the further he goes the better he’ll get. Definitely lean his way out of Gai’s pair. If it weren’t for her training I’d give him no hope of winning, but Gai has the magic touch and she’s produced plenty bigger upsets than what it would be if Wandjina won here off such a good Guineas run.

I’ll throw him in first 4s.

SELECTIONS (BASED ON GOOD/DEAD)
#1 SACRED FALLS
#8 CRITERION
#2 FAWKNER
#5 FORETELLER
#13 SWEYNESSE

SUGGESTED BETS:
• 5 UNITS EACH WAY @ $7 #1 SACRED FALLS
• 3 UNITS EACH WAY @ $11 #8 CRITERION
• Trifecta; 1,2,8 / 1,2,8 / 1,2,5,8,13,14 ($54 = 100%)

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