THE Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate is known as Australasia’s Weight For Age Championship, but your view of the 2017 edition may depend on whether you prefer your glass half full or empty.
On the plus side, there’s Winx. The world’s best horse on turf (at worst), the wonder mare will win her third successive Cox Plate on Saturday at Moonee Valley barring injury or disaster. She would likely have beaten any opposition on the day, but in this year’s field the result appears all but a formality. It will be a special occasion, albeit slightly anticlimactic.
That brings us to the negative. Winx has eight opponents this year – among them just two last-start winners, and no horse within 10 official ratings points of the wonder mare. At $1.18, she is the favourite with Humidor on the second line at $17. This is not so much a race as a procession.
Nonetheless, three places will pay out and there is a small chance Winx may not cross the line first. So which horse is best points to provide any resistance? Check out our runner-by-runner guide to the Cox Plate below.
Kaspersky went forward in the Toorak but his trainer has indicated leading is unlikely here. That means Gailo Chop may roll to the front, with Kaspersky and Folkswood tucking in behind. Winx looks like getting the dream run in either the second or third pairing, one off the fence. If anyone may struggle for position it is Happy Clapper, with the outside gate and moderate tempo doing it no favours.
1 HAPPY CLAPPER ($26.00): On the surface there looks to be little wrong with what he has done this prep, with victories at Group 1 and 2 level and a second to Winx. But he went under at $1.50 when looming to win the Craven Plate (2000m) and his record at this trip reads zero wins from five attempts. Regardless, he is an honest campaigner and can run on into the placings with a soft run in transit.
2 GAILO CHOP ($19.00): Scored a richly deserved second Group 1 victory in Australia when taking out the Caulfield Stakes a fortnight ago. He’s consistently out-run his SP at all four starts this prep but will face a task to do it again here. He is unlikely to be adding to his six wins from nine runs at the trip, but is certainly poised to run well.
3 HUMIDOR ($17.00): Disappointed slightly in the Turnbull but lost no admirers when ridden upside down on a rampant tempo and running fifth in the Caulfield Cup. It is a little tricky to read Weir’s intentions – the blinkers go on, but is this Grand Final Day or one last tune up for the Emirates in a fortnight at Flemington? A trail on the back of Winx would be worth its weight in gold here.
4 KASPERSKY ($101.00): Led them up in a hectic Group 1 Toorak before fading in the final furlong. Now strikes a race with less speed and the trainer has indicated he will take a sit. That, plus the fact he is untested at 2000m and his form looks weak means he looks unlikely to be in the finish.
5 FOLKSWOOD ($19.00): Hails from the English stable of Charlie Appleby – a trainer who, in the past 12 months, has consistently sent the ‘right horses’ to raid our Carnival riches. His Cranbourne Cup victory came via a peach of a ride from Kerrin McEvoy but a look through the form suggests he beat little of quality. An ourside chance to run a drum.
6 SEABURGE ($101.00): Didn’t beat a runner home first and second up before showing good improvement to run fifth in the G1 Toorak. Ran second over this trip in the G1 MacKinnon last year but on recent form will struggle to replicate that.
7 HARDHAM ($151.00): Ran second at $1.50 in a sales-restricted race two back before holding his ground to the line in the Caulfield Cup. Will be back and buried in this field and looks to lack the dash to run into the placings.
8 WINX ($1.18): What else can you say about this mare? She brained Humidor et al in the Turnbull to make it 21 straight wins and squash any doubts once and for all that she is going well enough. She will sit midfield off the fence and Bowman can ease her out into the race whenever he pleases. Her ability to sustain top speed for longer than the rest ensures she will win this comfortably.
9 ROYAL SYMPHONY ($19.00): The lone three-year-old in the field. Held a picket fence through his first four career runs before being a little unlucky at his last two when conditions were against, particularly in the G1 Caulfield Guineas. Has a proper turn of foot, gets in with just 49.5kgs and provided he runs the trip, looks a key place chance.
Enjoy watching Winx win a third straight Cox Plate. She is the best in the world, she’s scared off a number of good horses and she deserves the success. Good luck to you if you’re taking the bank interest price.
For the minors, Humidor can improve in blinkers, Royal Symphony should stamp himself as proper Group 1 quality and Happy Clapper is honest as the day is long.
3 ROYAL SYMPHONY
4 HAPPY CLAPPER