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Hawk’s Saturday Selections: Cox Plate Day

October 26, 2013

We’re right in the thick of the business end of the spring, with the running of the Cox Plate today at Moonee Valley.

It’s been a big week for me too – I’ve made the move to Hong Kong to work for the South China Morning Post.

Unfortunately, that means time is at a premium, so I’ve concentrated on settling into Hong Kong instead of focusing on Moonee Valley.

I’ve written a summary of the Cox Plate, as well as the three Group 2s today. Hopefully, we’ll be back on track for a bumper Melbourne Cup Carnival! As always, we’ll have our comprehensive Melbourne Cup runner-by-runner preview out in the hours after the barrier draw.

I’m disappointed not to be trackside this year, but it will be a new experience watching the race from thousands of miles away.

Good luck today, and go It’s A Dundeel!

Here are my selections for Cox Plate day:

Race 1 – INGLIS BANNER (1000m)

1 – GOOD PRINCE
14 – DONELLE
8 – HOWDEE
4 – BAIO

Race 2 – 1PRINT.COM.AU HANDICAP (1000m)

3 – FREERETURN
2 – ESPRIT DE BULLET
1 – VATICAN
6 – EIGHT BILLS

Race 3 – CITY JEEP HANDICAP (1200m)

2 – THE PEAK
1 – IT IS WRITTEN
4 – RICHIE’S VIBE
6 – VIBRANT ROUGE

Race 4 – DRUMMOND GOLF HANDICAP (2040m)

6 – OPINION
5 – HVASSTAN
3 – ROTHERA
7 – SEA GALLEON

Race 5 – GROUP 2 MITCHELTON WINES VASE (2040m)

This is the best guide to the Derby next weekend, and it looks like a number of these are live contenders next Saturday.

SAVVY NATURE is awfully short, and while I think he’ll prove hard to beat off his last start third in the Spring Champion Stakes, I’m going to go with TIPS AND BEERS to beat him.

Last start, Tips and Beers drifted as though he’d lost a leg, but he charged to the line to win impressively. On that run, you’d think the 2040m would be right up his alley, and I’m happy to go with him.

Obviously Savvy Nature is hard to beat, but I would prefer him to be going straight into the Derby without another run.

The trip away may have switched on DRAGO, who has been disappointing at his last couple of runs. At his best, he’d be hard to beat here, but just need to see him do it first. He’s one of those horses you couldn’t possibly have on top, but you have to have him your numbers in case he blouses you. And trust me, that’s very possible.

Next best STORM APPROACH, who comes out of a good race in Adelaide.

3 – TIPS AND BEERS
1 – SAVVY NATURE
2 – DRAGO
4 – STORM APPROACH

Race 6 – GROUP 3 TELSTRA PHONEWORDS STAKES (1200m)

8 – NOT LISTENIN’TOME
3 – DIAMOND OASIS
5 – RED MAGNET
4 – THERMAL CURRENT

Race 7 – GROUP 2 DRAKE INTERNATIONAL MOONEE VALLEY CUP (2500m)

This is a most disappointing Moonee Valley Cup, and is a result of a number of factors. Most importantly, with such a squeeze for positions in the Melbourne Cup, locals have to go to the Lexus next Saturday if they are any chance to qualify. So horses who at one time would have run in this race are now waiting until the Lexus.

I would love to see PRECEDENCE win for James and Bart Cummings. He’s been a bit of an enigma over the years, but he did win this race in 2010 before finishing fourth to Vatuvei last year. He would need a 1.5kg penalty to get into the Melbourne Cup, which looks highly unlikely, but you never know. He has finished 8th, 11th and 9th in the last three Melbourne Cups, so while he’d be unlikely to win if he did make the field, he would be a genuine top 10 hope. That all relies on him winning today, though.

MOURINHO is racing in peak form, having won the JRA Cup here two starts back before a good third in the Cranbourne Cup to Pakal. He won the 2040m restricted race on this day last year, and while he’s never raced over this trip, there’s no reason to doubt he’ll run the 2500m right out. As a track specialist, he’ll be hard to beat.

SNEAK A PEEK looks to be peaking now, having run third in the Metropolitan last start. He ran very good races last spring without winning, but the Metropolitan placing was the first time he was placed in Australia. At his best, he’d be a top chance.

Next best GOTTA TAKE CARE, who finished an incredibly gutsy third to Araldo and Sea Moon last start, and SHOREHAM.

5 – PRECEDENCE
6 – MOURINHO
2 – SNEAK A PEEK
9 – GOTTA TAKE CARE

Race 8 – GROUP 2 SCHWEPPES CRYSTAL MILE (1600m)

I’m not sure about the logic of having a 1600m weight for age race on the same day as our weight for age championship. A horse like SACRED FALLS would have been going to the Cox Plate instead, rather than the Crystal Mile, if it was still a handicap. I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I think the Crystal Mile would be better suited back to a handicap. Perhaps a weight for age mile on Caulfield Cup day would be better placed.

I’m tipping an upset of sorts here in LORD OF BRAZIL. He’s finished behind BLACKIE at his last two starts, but he was giving Blackie 4.5kg when he finished third, beaten five lengths, on Moir Stakes night. Last start, he finished a length behind him at equal weights, but I thought his run was full of merit, and I think he’ll be ready to peak. Happy to have something on at the price.

TOYDINI was huge in the Epsom Handicap and almost held off the late charge of Boban. With Boban and Spurtonic both winning last weekend at Caulfield, the form looks strong. He’s the one to beat, but I just want to see him around Moonee Valley first.

SACRED FALLS hasn’t raced to his best this spring, and I thought the 2000m would have been right up his alley at this stage of his preparation so I was surprised they didn’t head to the Cox Plate. I think he can improve, but he’ll need to if he’s to be competitive here.

And of course, given I rate Lord of Brazil so highly, BLACKIE must go into my selections.

4 – LORD OF BRAZIL
10 – TOYDINI
9 – SACRED FALLS
6 – BLACKIE

Race 9 – GROUP 3 ELIZA PARK INTERNATIONAL STAKES (1600m)

2 – LAKE SENTENTIA
11 – PORCELLANUS
9 – KAZANLUK
5 – EPINGLE

Race 10 – GROUP 1 COX PLATE (2040m)

The weight-for-age championship of Australia may have lost a little of its lustre with the withdrawal of Atlantic Jewel merely hours after the barrier draw, but it still promises to be a fascinating race and a great betting contest.

The tagline for the Cox Plate is “the race where legends are made” and I think this is the opportunity for IT’S A DUNDEEL to cement his legacy. Rarely have we seen more dominant performances in the Rosehill Guineas or Australian Derby as what he produced earlier this year, and his Underwood Stakes victory – in which he became the only horse to get the better of Atlantic Jewel – indicated he was on track for Cox Plate victory. Unfortunately, he was injured in the lead up to the Caulfield Stakes and missed the race. That remains the only query for mine, but if he is anywhere near fit, I think he has the race at his mercy.

GREEN MOON started favourite in this race last year following a very good Turnbull Stakes win, but he never looked likely and he trailed home a disappointing seventh. We all know what happened over the next few days – he was forgotten, overlooked at Flemington, but came out and won the Melbourne Cup comprehensively.

He hasn’t shown quite so much this year, and he finished well back at his last start in the Underwood Stakes. However, horses like FORETELLER and PUISSANCE DE LUNE have proven subsequently the runs of the backmarkers are best forgotten. And among the backmarkers, Green Moon was among the best. Just like It’s A Dundeel, Green Moon had a setback – a temperature – which kept him out of the Caulfield Stakes, but I’m not concerned about fitness with Green Moon as Mount Macedon is one of the best, if not the best, training facilities in Australia.

With the strong arsenal of Cup contenders for Lloyd Williams this year, don’t be surprised if he attempts to sweep the big three this year – and he can do it with Green Moon. I expect his other two runners – SEVILLE and MASKED MARVEL – to finish in the ruck ahead of the Melbourne Cup, just as Efficient did in 2007 and just as Green Moon did last year.

You must always be wary of the three-year-olds in this race, when they are carrying 49.5kg. This year, there are two three-year-olds – Caulfield Guineas winner LONG JOHN and Caulfield Guineas third SHAMUS AWARD, who is still a maiden. The fact Darley are willing to run Long John only two years after Helmet’s failure as favourite indicates they expect him to run well, but I believe Shamus Award is the three-year-old to follow.

On breeding, you would want to be on Long John, who is by Street Cry out of a Night Shift mare. But I’m going to stick with the horse who shouldn’t get 2040m on pedigree, being by speedster Snitzel. Shamus Award has looked like he’d get over ground ever since his two year old days, when he was second to Twilight Royale in the VRC Sires Produce Stakes.

He has had nine starts for seven placings, a fifth in the Blue Diamond Stakes and his only disappointing run three starts back when seventh to Long John at Flemington. He made his debut in the first race last year, when he finished third to Crack a Roadie. His last two runs have been outstanding – he was the only horse to sit handy in the Stutt Stakes and kick on, with Divine Calling and Cluster both coming from well back, while he came from last on the turn in the Caulfield Guineas to rattle into third. That tactical versatility is crucial, and from the very good draw, I expect him to take a handy position and prove the best of the three year olds.

If there’s one to include in exotics, it’s Foreteller. He was well beaten by Atlantic Jewel last start – but weren’t they all? He beat Puissance de Lune in the Makybe Diva Stakes, before finishing alongside Green Moon in the Underwood Stakes. Last start’s run was far from poor, and the race should pan out more in his favour here. I also tend to think Moonee Valley may suit him, so I’m happy to include him in my selections.

Next best FIORENTE, who will be better suited at Flemington in 10 days time, while the international raider SIDE GLANCE is not without some hope if he runs up to his Dubai World Cup fourth.

11 – IT’S A DUNDEEL
1 – GREEN MOON
15 – SHAMUS AWARD
4 – FORETELLER

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