Just when you thought you’d heard it all, one jealous Pom came out and said Australia’s best ever horse was rubbish – or at least, the rivals she’d been beating were – on the eve of her attempt at a fourth straight Cox Plate.
Talk about adding some spice to the build up! It even led gentle, tearful Chris Waller to label the blaspheming commentator, Matt Chapman, “a bit of a “****head” for his input.
But does he have a point? Has Europe, the standard-bearers in middle distance and staying horses and races, finally sent a genuine WFA star down under to topple Winx from her throne?
Here’s our runner-by-runner preview of the 2018 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
Despite just eight runners lining up, there’s some uncertainty over just how the race will be run. Raiders Benbatl and Rostropovich look like taking up the running and tactics will be key – stringing the field out could play into Winx’s hands, but so too could backing off the tempo and allowing her to settle within a few lengths of the lead. She’ll likely sit one out, one back, in front of her other rivals who’ll do well to run over the top
Jockey: Oisin Murphy. Trainer: Saeed Bin Suroor. Barrier: 3.
If noise from the stable and his patriotic UK followers counted for anything, Benbatl would sit on all but level terms with Winx in Cox Plate betting. A supremely talented middle-distance type, Benbatl showed his fighting qualities when taking out the Caulfield Stakes in preparation for this. He’ll give himself every chance on-pace again, but does he have the sustained burst to keep pace with the mare in the final half-mile? We’ll find out.
— Racing.com (@Racing) October 13, 2018
Jockey: Damian Lane. Trainer: Darren Weir. Barrier 7.
The first of Darren Weir’s Cox Plate team tackles his second Cox Plate off arguably an inferior preparation to last year. Although, when that still includes a Group 1 victory in the Memsie Stakes, how bad can you really be going? The issue for Humidor is where he settles – like last year, he’ll likely be chasing Winx when the whips are cracking, not the other way around. Regardless, he’s a strong place hope.
KINGS WILL DREAM ($31.00)
Jockey: John Allen. Trainer: Darren Weir. Barrier: 4.
Darren Weir’s newest WFA star followed an identical preparation to that of stablemate Humidor in 2017 when he ran Winx to half a length. He won’t have been knocked around from the slowly-run Caulfield Cup when he didn’t get a real crack at them until late and should have something left in the tank for this on the back up. Looks a genuine quinella and trifecta chance.
ICYMI: Best Solution wins the Caulfield Cup pic.twitter.com/0vRDvHvfil
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) October 20, 2018
Jockey: Glyn Schofield. Trainer: James Cummings. Barrier: 1.
The Cox Plate’s second Cox Plate entrant as been in top form at handicap level since arriving in Australia, winning four from four. This is another step up altogether though and appears like a Melbourne Cup tune up. Regardless, a soft run from the inside gate could hold him in good stead from a place perspective in the closing stages.
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy. Trainer: Chris Waller. Barrier: 2.
The grey arrives as a horse of much promise for the future according to trainer Chris Waller, but he may have already peaked this preparation when running a blinding second to Hartnell in the Epsom. Last start he went back in the Caulfield Stakes, where the leader Benbatl still ran home in quicker time. Not here.
Jockey: Hugh Bowman. Trainer: Chris Waller. Barrier: 6.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Winx ran 32.21 for her last 600m to secure a 28th straight victory in the Turnbull Stakes from last on the turn. Rival jockeys couldn’t have done any more to beat her that day and she still got it done. The small field here means she won’t be giving Benbatl much of a start and a wide draw just means she won’t get caught inside runners. It is hard to envisage anything other than a fourth straight Cox Plate and another piece of Australian racing history.
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) October 6, 2018
Jockey: Ryan Moore. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Barrier: 8.
Another member of Aidan O’Brien’s big Spring Carnival team, Rostropovich is somewhat of an unknown to Australian racing fans. What we do know is he is a strong stayer with an on-pace racing pattern and the ability to sustain a genuine tempo. Looks likely to sit outside or cross compatriot Benbatl and take up the running and could pinch a break on other place contenders.
SAVVY COUP ($34.00)
Jockey: Chris Johnson. Trainer: Michael & Matthew Pittman. Barrier: 5.
There’s no slouches in this Cox Plate (just ask connections of Trap For Fools) but that doesn’t mean they’ll all keep up. Savvy Coup dominated the Livamol Classic in New Zealand last start but this is different gravy. She’ll likely settle behind Winx and it’s hard to see her running past the champion mare.
She's done it!
— TAB Racing (@TAB_Racing) October 6, 2018
No surprises for guessing the top pick, so betting in this race looks a matter of playing the exotics.
Of the pace-setters, Benbatl looks clearly the stronger commodity and it is impossible to ignore his chances. Likely sitting behind the leader on the fence is Kings Will Dream, a horse racing very well and following a successful path for this. There’s also plenty to be said for Humidor arriving for his Grand Final off a freshen, and he’s the one most likely to make ground from the rear.
- KINGS WILL DREAM