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The Hawk’s 2012 Cox Plate Preview – Who Will Win?

October 27, 2012

http://www.justhorseracing.com.au/news/australian-racing/the-hawks-2012-cox-plate-preview-who-will-win/171453

The 2012 Cox Plate is unlikely to go down as a classic – although we might see something extraordinary today which will change that view – but it is definitely an intriguing race.

It is rare that there is such an even Cox Plate. There is usually one horse that stands out – a So You Think, a Makybe Diva or a Might and Power.

When there isn’t, it is usually considered to be a weak edition of the race.

I could never say this edition is weak, by any means. Not at all. Most of these would be deserving of the tag “Cox Plate winner.”

But anyone who is confident about something here is kidding themselves, in my mind. There is no way you can be confident about anything this year.

It makes for one exciting Cox Plate – it’s the race for the purists.

Here is my preview of this year’s $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m):

1. SHOOT OUT (4)

Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 132×17
Biggest Win: Group 1 AJC Australian Derby (2400m), Royal Randwick, 10/4/2010
Age: 6
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $26
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $19

A truly fine galloper who has been somewhat forgotten in the lead up to the Cox Plate. He started this preparation with a first up win in the George Main Stakes before a somewhat lacklustre seventh in the Epsom Handicap when he had to carry a lot of weight. He was second up and he raced wide so it can be forgiven. He’s come into calculations since the barrier draw, with a number of people including him among their selections. For me, I couldn’t believe as much as $41 was offered earlier this week – he is a weight for age galloper who has been likely for a couple of weeks to run in this race. Of course, he’s now at $18, a much more suitable price. Two things are pivotal here – he did run fourth in the Cox Plate in 2010 when I think he was over the top, and he beat More Joyous that year. He also beat All Too Hard comfortably in Sydney, although All Too Hard gets further weight relief here and will be more at home the Melbourne way of going. Shoot Out has drawn perfectly, should relish the 2040m now and I can see him getting a gun run. For me, I believe him to be a big chance of giving Chris Waller his first winner of any of the big four.

2. SINCERO (12)

Trainer: Stephen Farley
Jockey: Michael Rodd
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 54×153
Biggest Win: Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m), Eagle Farm, 11/6/2011
Age: 5
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $26
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $26

To my eye, Sincero is a sprinter-miler who keeps getting pushed up to a middle distance trip. Sincero’s spring started with a bang when he won the Memsie Stakes convincingly, before he finished a reasonable fifth in the Underwood Stakes. He was third last time out behind Ocean Park and Alcopop in the Caulfield Stakes. Alcopop has since come out and franked the form with his Caulfield Cup second. It would be a great story if the Wyong horse purchased for peanuts could beat off the best in the land, and I definitely wouldn’t begrudge the owners a victory in this weight for age contest. I just don’t think he can run a strong 2040m in this company. The Caulfield Stakes was a soft 2000m and it wasn’t a true test of the horse’s ability to run the trip right out. He’ll get his test here today, and based on his other performances at the distance, I’m happy to oppose. The other factor which I’m concerned about is that his best performances are seemingly early in a preparation. He always seems to peak, before slowly producing inferior ratings at each subsequent start. I just can’t have him.

3. GLASS HARMONIUM (2)

Trainer: Michael Moroney
Jockey: James McDonald
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 0x47x49
Biggest Win: Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), Flemington, 29/10/2011
Age: 7
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $67
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $81

A horse I backed last year. He may be an outsider, but I believe the race totally hinges on Glass Harmonium. If he jumps away with them, he’ll be on speed and with Gai Waterhouse’s trio also heading to the front, it could be their undoing. That said, if he misses the start, he’ll head back towards the rear and is highly unlikely to play any part. Therefore, you’ll know his chances five seconds after the start. You have to take a gamble with him – will he jump? Taking into account all the variables – the buzz of the crowd, the likelihood he’ll be stirred up as he heads to the start, and even considering his history – I reckon it’s unlikely he’ll jump with them. Therefore, I’m taking a set against him. His form coming into this is uninspiring – a good fourth in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (when he jumped with them!) followed by a disappointing ninth in the Toorak Handicap when he bombed the start. If he jumps, he could probably finish fourth or fifth. That said, I still couldn’t see him winning. Not for me.

4. GREEN MOON (5)

Trainer: Robert Hickmott
Jockey: Craig Williams
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 0x1x521
Biggest Win: Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m), Flemington, 6/10/2012
Age: 6
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $5
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $5

Lloyd Williams import who has been very good this campaign. This time last year, he was winning the Newcastle Cup, so he’s come a long way in 12 months. Showed he may be a Cox Plate contender with a win in the Blamey Stakes in the autumn, but he really has blossomed this campaign. He charged home in the Memsie, with the flashin light firmly on his head, before finishing second to Happy Trails in the Dato Tan Chin Nam. He was then a very good winner of the Turnbull Stakes, beating Seville. The Turnbull form took a little bit of a hit last weekend in the Caulfield Cup, with sixth placed Zabeelionaire the best performed of the Turnbull runners. But Green Moon and his stablemate Seville were so dominant that they almost need to be considered separately from the rest of the field. Green Moon’s whole preparation is being aimed at the Melbourne Cup, and I get the feeling he may now be looking for 2400m at least. He’s tough, which is vital in a Cox Plate, but I’m still not sure he’s the type of horse to win a Cox Plate. He has form on his side though, so must rate a chance.

5. REKINDLED INTEREST (1)

Trainer: Jim Conlan
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 25×030
Biggest Win: Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m), Moonee Valley, 10/9/2011
Age: 5
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $21
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $26

A Moonee Valley specialist who has been racing below his best this campaign. He was 10th first up in the Memsie Stakes before a third in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes to Happy Trails. He then ran an even 10th in the Turnbull Stakes. There’s no doubting he improves at Moonee Valley, but I think at his best he would have won this year’s Dato Tan Chin Nam. He probably should have won this last year when he was squeezed out at a vital stage, but this race is a vast improvement on last year. He’d need to be going better in my eyes to be any sort of a chance. His liking for Moonee Valley gives him an extremely rough place chance, but I couldn’t see him figuring in the finish this year. No.

6. LINTON (14)

Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Steven Arnold
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 60x1x40
Biggest Win: Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m), Caulfield, 9/10/2010
Age: 6
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $67
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $101

This horse has always had plenty of promise, and one day I’m sure he’ll knock us all out with an incredible performance. Can it be here? I’m not so sure. Owned by the Dubai-based Stefan Friborg and a number of Dubai associates, I’m sure they will get a Cox Plate winner one day. They were keen to bring Dubai World Cup winner Gloria de Campaeo out in 2010, but injury curtailed those plans. Linton comes into this off a good run first up in the Dato Tan Chin Nam before a disappointing run in the Turnbull Stakes. That said, he should be excused for that run, given he was ridden upside down. This means he’ll go back today which should suit. I think All Too Hard will be in the same spot as Linton, and I’d probably prefer to be on All Too Hard from that spot if they are swooping. But that said, his record once he gets beyond two runs in a campaign is superb. He’s third up here, so that should suit. Connections will be hoping for a genuine firm track today. Still, rough place chance at best for mine.

7. HAPPY TRAILS (8)

Trainer: Paul Beshara
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Weight: 59kg
Last 5 Starts: 6×1215
Biggest Win: Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m), Moonee Valley, 15/9/2012
Age: 5
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $34
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $51

Spent a couple of years promising to show us something special, running on hard to finish just behind the placegetters in two Doncasters and a number of Group 2 and 3 races. This spring, it’s all clicked. Won the Spring Stakes first up at Morphettville before coming across to Melbourne to finish second in the Memsie Stakes, a huge performance. He raced on speed that day, which is not his optimal style of running, but he fought on very strongly. He came out and won the traditional Cox Plate lead up, the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, before he then finished fifth in the Turnbull Stakes, finishing solidly on the worst part of the track. In the Dato Tan Chin Nam, he beat Turnbull winner Green Moon, so perhaps the variation in prices is a bit of an anomaly. However, I’m not convinced he’s a 2000m horse and for that reason, I’m passing. Place perhaps at very best.

8. ETHIOPIA (6)

Trainer: Pat Carey
Jockey: Rhys McLeod
Weight: 57.5kg
Last 5 Starts: 321×76
Biggest Win: Group 1 ATC Australian Derby (2400m), Royal Randwick, 14/4/2012
Age: 4
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $26
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $21

If you told me back in the autumn that any of the runners in the Alister Clark Stakes – a three year old 2040m race in March – would be running in the Cox Plate, I would have laughed at you. It looked an appalling edition of the race and there was nothing to support the fact that any of them would go anywhere in their careers. But here is Ethiopia, a horse that was a maiden at the time, now lining up a legitimate chance in a Cox Plate. He’s only won the one race from six starts, but what a race to win – the Australian Derby. He looks a really nice stayer in the making, but he’s still so untapped that we really have no idea of his true potential. His two runs this preparation have been full of merit, a seventh in the Dato Tan Chin Nam before a sixth in the Turnbull. He hit the line hard in the Turnbull, suggesting he’s ready to fire soon. The Melbourne Cup will be fascinating if they decide to head there, but I do think he’s a genuine each way contender at good odds.  Each-way value.

9. OCEAN PARK (9)

Trainer: Gary Hennessy
Jockey: Glen Boss
Weight: 57.5kg
Last 5 Starts: 82×111
Biggest Win: Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m), Caulfield, 22/9/2012
Age: 4
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $5.50
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $6.50

The Kiwi four year old is unbeaten this spring, having won the Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings first up before winning the Underwood and Caulfield Stakes. He was impressive at his first two, showing a tremendous turn of foot to win both, but I’m not sure the Caulfield Stakes will be the form race this year for the Cox Plate. While he did win, he wasn’t as dazzling as I would have liked to see. He seemed to grind home, which I guess came down to the conditions of the race. He will get more pace on here which should allow him to flash home. He’s a gun horse, no doubt, but I think there are others I’d prefer to be on. Place.

10. MORE JOYOUS (11)

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Nash Rawiller
Weight: 57kg
Last 5 Starts: 11×114
Biggest Win: Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m), Royal Randwick, 21/4/2012
Age: 6
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $10
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $7

Gun mare who has won 21 from 29. That’s an incredible record in anyone’s book. She’s been the subject of much drama this week, although it has been a great asset in publicising the race amongst the mainstream media. She ran fifth to So You Think two years ago when a clear second favourite. That day, the indications were she didn’t run out a strong 2040m. That theory was challenged when she won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick easily in the autumn, beating some top weight for age horses. However, she had as soft a lead as possible, which gave her every chance to run the trip right out. Personally, I still think she is some query in a Cox Plate. Her form this preparation has been solid – two easy kills in mares races in Sydney before a tough fourth under 60kg in the Toorak Handicap. Last run, she was probably a tad disappointing but she did have to work hard to get across and she was giving each of the placegetters 8kg. Back to weight for age here suits. I’m not sure she’s a winning chance here, but perhaps she can run second for the first time in her career. Place best.

11. SOUTHERN SPEED (13)

Trainer: Leon Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas
Jockey: Luke Nolen
Weight: 57kg
Last 5 Starts: 31140
Biggest Win: Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), Caulfield, 15/10/2011
Age: 5
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $41
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $41

Scratched from the Caulfield Cup due to the wide barrier, only to come up with barrier 13 here. I’m not sure where she’ll get to in the run off that. Perhaps she’ll have to go forward, hoping to find cover. Her form was good this preparation – a win in the Penny Edition Stakes in Adelaide followed by a victory in the Makybe Diva Stakes. She then ran a good fourth in the Underwood Stakes, before a dismal second last in the Turnbull Stakes. Intriguingly, she’s never won at 2000m. The Makybe Diva Stakes has been a bogey race for horses going forward, with only four winners of the race in the last 25 years winning another race in the same spring. I think the trap will continue here, as I cannot possibly see Southern Speed winning. Some have argued her second in the Australian Cup would hold her in good stead here, but I think this is another race entirely. There’s a different calibre of 2000m horses here. And that, combined with an awkward gate, are the reasons I’ll be looking elsewhere.

12. PIERRO (7)

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Corey Brown
Weight: 49.5kg
Last 5 Starts: 11×112
Biggest Win: Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m), Rosehill, 7/4/2012
Age: 3
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $3.70
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $4.60

I have no doubts at all that this horse is a champion. I think it is overused, but he is one of the best horses I’ve seen in recent years. I underrated him as a juvenile, and it was only before the Champagne Stakes that I realised how good he was. Nothing I’ve seen this preparation has changed my view that he’s a champion, not even his last start defeat in the Caulfield Guineas when plenty went against him. A self-imposed rule has always been, never back horses by Lonhro beyond a mile. It’s served me pretty well. But it is a measure of how good I think Pierro is that I am happy to break the rule for him. He has enough stoutness on his dam’s side to suggest the trip won’t be a problem. For me, I’m more worried about whether last start may have had a negative impact, for he did have to work very hard. But I also believe he wasn’t at full fitness last start – that might be crazy, given it was a Caulfield Guineas and it was a race he was expected to win, but I believe this whole campaign has been geared around the Cox Plate. It was the reason he didn’t run in the Golden Rose, it was the reason he ran in the Bill Stutt Stakes before the Caulfield Guineas. I think Pierro can create history today by becoming the first Golden Slipper winner to add the Cox Plate to his resume. Big chance.

13. ALL TOO HARD (3)

Trainer: John Thompson
Jockey: Chris Munce
Weight: 49.5kg
Last 5 Starts: 2×3541
Biggest Win: Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m), Caulfield, 13/10/2012
Age: 3
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $10
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $10

Perhaps, after today, we’ll be talking about All Too Hard’s big sister – the mighty Black Caviar – instead of calling him Black Caviar’s little brother. He’s a great horse in his own right, although expectations have been measured somewhat against Black Caviar’s indomitable achievements. I labelled him the disappointment of the spring before the Caulfield Guineas, and I think it was a fair call. He’d started favourite in the San Domenico Stakes but could only finish third, he’d started second favourite in the Run To The Rose but could only manage fifth of six, and he’d started second favourite in the George Main Stakes but could only manage fourth. He was looking like a hype horse of the highest order. But, even given the amount of pace that was on in the Caulfield Guineas, he was still outstanding. I think it is fair to say now that he just isn’t the same horse left handed – ie, the Sydney way of going. Back to Melbourne, he’s right at home. As with all the three year olds, the 2040m is the query – and his pedigree doesn’t suggest it would suit. But he’s always given every indication 2040m would be right up his alley, so I’m not prepared to say he can’t run it. He’ll have the last crack at them, which could be dangerous. It may pay to watch earlier races – if they are swooping, he’s the big threat. Chance.

14. PROISIR (10)

Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
Jockey: Craig Newitt
Weight: 49.5kg
Last 5 Starts: -1112
Biggest Win: Group 3 Spring Stakes (1600m), Newcastle, 19/9/2012
Age: 3
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 11am Tuesday: $8.50
Odds (courtesy of Sportsbet) at 1pm Saturday: $10

Greg Miles said after So You Think’s Cox Plate victory at his fifth start, “That’s probably the best training performance Bart Cummings has produced in his entire career.” This could be eclipsed by Gai Waterhouse if Proisir wins today, for Proisir is still only in his first racing preparation (So You Think was in his second). He won his first start at Hawkesbury on August 1 – not even three months ago! He then went to Rosehill where he smashed subsequent Flight Stakes winner Norzita. A six length win in the Spring Stakes at Newcastle was followed by a gutsy second to It’s A Dundeel in the Spring Champion Stakes when he missed the start. I managed to catch a glimpse of Proisir at Flemington on Thursday. He looked absolutely sensational. He looked strong, his coat was gleaming, he looked fully fit – while I didn’t seriously consider him a prospect before that, he came into consideration after that. I think, in time, Proisir will be a top class miler, but for me I still have that query about him at 2040m. The big factor is that he is by Choisir, a definite speed sire – although he has produced staying types, like New Zealand Derby placegetter Historian. The dam’s side adds a bit of stoutness, but still, I’m not convinced he’s a 2040m type. I have no doubt the Spring Champion Stakes will hold up as a form race, with both It’s A Dundeel and Proisir classy animals, but whether that translates to Cox Plate form is still a bit iffy for mine. I can’t rule him out, but I won’t be backing him.

SUMMARY

This is truly a dartboard race – I reckon you could run the race 10 times and you’d have 10 different winners, it is that even. Luck in running will play a massive part in determining who is Australasia’s weight for age champion. The two that I want to be on are SHOOT OUT and PIERRO, and I’ll be backing both. The reason I have Shoot Out on top is the simple fact that he’s already had a run at 2000m – in fact, he’s raced well beyond that – so I know the trip is no problem. I think 1600m-2000m is probably his optimum distance, and no matter how much I query the older horses, I keep coming back to him. I’d love to see Shoot Out win the Cox Plate. Pierro, he’s a champion. I think he’s the one to beat and he rates on top, but that slight query about the distance just stops me from putting him on top. But I’ll be backing him as well so I would love to see him win. Those two stand out from the rest for mine. I think ALL TOO HARD will relish the 2040m and if he gets pace on, he’ll be flashing home, so I’ll put him in for third. And the best value of the race is ETHIOPIA, he’s still untapped so he could produce a giant-killing performance today. It’s a great two minutes, I can’t wait for what is one of the most intriguing Cox Plates of recent years.

NUMBERS

1 – SHOOT OUT
12 – PIERRO
13 – ALL TOO HARD
8 – ETHIOPIA

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