Cox plate

2018

Moonee Valley, VIC / 2040m / Race 9
Saturday, October 27 at 5:00pm

Cox Plate:

STATISTICS

The Betting:

Knowledge & Insight

A total of 22 Cox Plate favourites have started “in the red”, 16 of them winning, with one second, two thirds and three unplaced.

Starting at $1.15 last year, Winx was odds-on for the second time in a row in the Cox Plate and by winning, joined Phar Lap and Tobin Bronze as the only horses to capture the race twice as odds-on favourite.

At odds of 1/7, Phar Lap faced just five opponents in the Cox Plate of 1930, proceeding to a four-length romp with jockey Jim Pike easing him down.

A week later he won the Melbourne (Mackinnon) Stakes by 3 lengths, then on the Tuesday, famously took the Melbourne Cup (with 62.5kg) again by a 3 length margin.

On Oaks Day, and back to a mile (1600m), Phar Lap won the Linlithgow Stakes by 4 lengths and for good measure on Final Day, the Fisher Plate over 12 furlongs (2400m). Phar Lap is the only horse to win on all four days of the VRC Flemington Carnival.

His complete domination scared the majority of his rivals away, and again in 1931, Phar Lap faced just six opponents in the Cox Plate. He started a 1/14 favourite, the shortest price of any favourite in Cox Plate history, and easily defeated the three-year-old Chatham, himself to go on and win two Cox Plates (1932 and 1934).

Form Focus Verdict

The first horse to suffer defeat in a Cox Plate when an odds-on favourite was Chatham (fourth in 1933 at 8/15), then six years later the 3yo High Caste was fifth in 1939 at odds of 9/10.

Then came the Lou Robertson-trained Lawrence who was despatched as 1/2 favourite in 1944, only to pull up sore when runner-up to Tranquil Star.

The following year and again it was Lawrence the 5yo failing to handle a waterlogged heavy, finishing fourth (at 9/10) to star Sydney mare Flight.

In 1961, champion Sydney galloper Sky High was third to Dhaulagiri as 4/9 favourite, then Lonhro was sent out $1.60 favourite in 2003, finishing third to Fields of Omagh.

This will be the twenty-fourth consecutive occasion that Winx will go out as an odds-on favourite.

BARRIER POSITIONS:

Knowledge & Insight

With a small field expected for the 2018 Cox Plate, the barrier draw is of limited significance, unlike in other years where a capacity field ensues.

The overall numbers do (unsurprisingly) favour gates one to seven, with forty-five of the past sixty winners drawn in those gate numbers.

Barrier eight is having a bit of a drought – not since Redcraze in 1957 has barrier eight saluted.

Form Focus Verdict

Jumping from gate six, Winx has the averages in her favour, barrier 6 tying with barrier 7 as the most successful barrier over the past sixty years – 7 wins each.

Fifty-eight years ago in 1960, Tommy Smith’s champion Tulloch concluded his Melbourne Cup campaign in the Cox Plate. Bookmakers risked the six-year-old due to him starting from the extreme outside gate of 15.

With jockey Neville Sellwood biding his time in the early stages, Tulloch was sent forward at the 800m, eventually prevailing by a half-length over Dhaulagiri. Post race, Smith declared “I can’t see how he can lose the Cup after that race”.

Smith’s bold prediction unravelled when Tulloch (with 64kg) encountered Monash Freeway-like traffic issues in the Cup (32 runners didn’t help), finishing seventh as 3/1 favourite.

AGE AND SEX:

Knowledge & Insight

Just 7 individual mares have won the Cox Plate since the race was first run in 1922 and it actually took until 1942 before one of Australia’s greatest mares broke through for her sex.

Runner-up in the Cox Plate of 1941, Tranquil Star went into the 1942 edition off the back of wins in the WFA Caulfield Stakes and the Caulfield Cup (both conducted at Flemington).

A week after the Caulfield Cup, and drawing 19 of 19 in the Cox Plate, the popular mare trounced her rivals by 5 lengths. She then backed up a week later to land the Mackinnon Stakes before finishing down the track in the Melbourne Cup with 58.5kg.

Tranquil Star was the first horse (and remains the only mare) to claim the Caulfield Cup-Cox Plate double, and since, only Rising Fast (1954), Tobin Bronze (1967) and Northerly (2002) have matched this feat.

Fourth in the 1943 Cox Plate, Tranquil Star claimed her second Cox Plate in 1944, and then as an eight-year-old was fifth in the 1945 edition, won by another outstanding mare in Flight.

A contemporary of Bernborough, Flight returned to defend her crown in 1946 and succeeded, although the race was run in two divisions that year.

Incredibly, it would take another 52 years before a mare would score again, Dane Ripper winning for Bart Cummings in 1998, then champion NZ mare Sunline went back to back (1999-2000). The great Makybe Diva scored in 2005 prior to landing her third Melbourne Cup, then Pinker Pinker won at long odds in 2011.

Centre-stage on Saturday is mare number 7 – Winx, the Chris Waller-trained mare having totally dominated the race over the past 3 years.

Form Focus Verdict

This will be the thirteenth time that a mare will start favourite or joint favourite in the Cox Plate, the overall records reflecting the current supremacy of Winx.

Winx has landed the prize as favourite in the past 3 years, however just two other mares in Cox Plate history (Sunline-2000 and Makybe Diva-2005) have scored as the punter’s elect.

It took until 1970 (the Cummings-trained Gay Poss) for a mare to start Cox Plate favourite; not that surprising when the records show that a mare had finished in the first three on just nine occasions from 1922 to 1965.

The WEIGHTS:

Knowledge & Insight

First conducted on Saturday, October 28, 1922, the weight-for-age W.S.Cox Plate was worth 750 pounds and introduced to the Moonee Valley Cup day programme, ostensibly as a support race to the Moonee Valley Gold Cup (worth 1000 pounds in 1922).

Fast forward fifty years to 1972, and the Cox Plate won by Gunsynd had a total stake of $45,600, while the MV Cup was worth $20,600.

Now, in 2018, total stakemoney for the Cox Plate has ballooned to $5 million with the Moonee Valley Cup sitting on $500,000.

The first running in 1922 went to the imported stallion Violoncello, a top-class mid-distance galloper who had won the 1921 Caulfield Cup. Fourth a week earlier in the 1922 Caulfield Cup, Violoncello defeated top Perth galloper Easingwold (who returned a year later to take the 1923 Cox Plate) and the mare Furious, winner of the 1921 VRC Victoria Derby-VRC Oaks double.

Seven days after his Cox Plate triumph, Violoncello won the Cantala Stakes with 60.5kg, then on Oaks Day landed the Linlithgow Stakes over a mile. Stepping up to 12 furlongs (2400m) Violoncello then collected the Fisher Plate on Final Day to cap off a remarkable two weeks for connections.

After this auspicious start, the Cox Plate rapidly developed, both in prizemoney and prestige, the honour roll containing a multitude of stars of Australian horse-racing – Phar Lap, Tulloch, Rising Fast, Makybe Diva, Kingston Town, Tobin Bronze, Ajax, Tranquil Star, Amounis.

Form Focus Verdict

No less than 27 horses inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame find themselves on the Cox Plate honour roll, Winx having been voted into that elite group last year.

And while comparisons generate debate, they are invariably futile, whether it be prizemoney, wins at Group One level or the like.

Consider, however, the career of Kingston Town, the only other horse other than Winx to claim the Cox Plate on three occasions.

Prior to Cox Plate number 1 (1980), Kingston Town had won the AJC & QTC Derbies, Spring Champion & Rosehill Guineas at G1 level against his own age as a 3yo. He’d also beaten the older horses at G1 level in the Tancred Stakes and Sydney Cup (3200m). For good measure, he’d also finished in the placings in the VRC Derby and Caulfield Guineas, plus a fourth in the Caulfield Cup.

A week before the Cox Plate, Kingston Town carried 60kg in the Caulfield Cup, finishing third to Ming Dynasty.

Before Cox Plate number 2 (1981), he was undefeated in 6 starts leading into the race, then was second in the Mackinnon. Undeterred by 60.5kg, trainer Tommy Smith ran him in the Melbourne Cup, the horse coming in 20th to stablemate Just a Dash.
In the lead-up to Cox Plate number 3 (1982), Kingston Town won the Warwick, George Main & Caulfield Stakes. With 59kg in the 1982 Melbourne Cup, the horse went down by a neck to Gurner’s Lane after looking home at the clocktower.
Kingston Town was a worthy inaugural inductee to Australian Racing’s Hall of Fame.

Cox Plate:

FORM PROFILE

LEAD UP FORM:

Knowledge & Insight

Champion mare Winx takes a similar route to her 2017 Cox Plate triumph (via the VRC Turnbull Stakes) whereas in her first win in 2015 she became the first horse in 56 years to complete the Epsom Handicap-Cox Plate double and the fourth in history, joining Noholme (1959), Chatham (1932) and Nightmarch (1929).

In 2016, Winx won the Caulfield Stakes before bolting in the Cox Plate; the Caulfield Stakes has been a highly popular preliminary-final to Cox Plate success with no fewer than 15 horses completing this double before Winx, amongst them Kingston Town (twice), So You Think, Northerly, Might and Power, Bonecrusher, Gunsynd and Rising Fast.

In 2017, via the Turnbull Stakes, Winx traversed a road-map made successful by 9 horses previously, including Makybe Diva (2005), Northerly (2002), Better Loosen Up (1990), Dulcify (1979) and Tobin Bronze (1966). For the record, since 1958 (sixty years), a total of 28 Turnbull winners have contested the Cox Plate for 9 wins, 5 seconds and 5 thirds.

Form Focus Verdict

Few horses have dominated a Spring like New Zealander Rising Fast, the five-year-old running rampant through the feature races of 1954.

Taking the Feehan Stakes in early September, he was runner-up to Flying Halo in the Underwood before an amazing sequence of victories – the Turnbull Stakes, Caulfield Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, Mackinnon Stakes, Melbourne Cup & C B Fisher Plate.

No horse before or since has even come close to emulating Rising Fast in his extraordinary same year 1954 Caulfield Cup-Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup treble.

JOCKEY:

Knowledge & Insight

With five wins between 1933 and 1952, Darby Munro is the leading overall Cox Plate jockey, one ahead of Jack Purtell and Brent Thomson on four apiece. Munro’s winners were Rogilla, Young Idea, Mosaic, Beau Vite and Hydrogen.

Purtell’s four victories were achieved in a seven-year time-frame (1950 to 1956), although he could be regarded as unlucky in the race, having also ridden five seconds.

Thomson won at his first four rides in the race, the New Zealand-born rider scoring his first in 1975 on Fury’s Order, aged seventeen, then three in succession (1977-1978-1979).

Last year’s victory on Winx saw Hugh Bowman join three other riders with three Cox Plate winners – Harold Badger, Neville Sellwood and Glen Boss.

Form Focus Verdict

Jockey Hugh Bowman can elevate himself to eighth position on the Form Focus All-Time Australian Group 1 Jockeys Table by winning his fourth Cox Plate on Winx.

Currently equal with Darren Beadman on 79 Australian G1 winners, a win for Bowman would see him one shy of Glen Boss (81) in seventh position.

As a Trainer-Jockey combination, the Waller-Bowman partnership can certainly thank Winx for the majority (22) of their 34 wins at Group 1 level together.

In the All-Time rankings, Tommy Smith and George Moore are the clear “combo” leaders with 54 Group 1 wins, followed by Bart Cummings and Roy Higgins with 46.

A Cox Plate victory would see the Waller-Bowman combination draw level in third overall position with Lee Freedman & Damien Oliver (35 G1 wins together).

TRAINER:

Knowledge & Insight

Trainer of Kingston Town (aside from Winx, he’s the only other three-time Cox Plate winner), Tommy (T.J.) Smith won the race a further four times, thus holding the training record of seven Cox Plate winners.

His first success came with Redcraze (1957), then his champion Tulloch (1960), followed by the popular grey Gunsynd (1972). Smith’s history-making treble with Kingston Town occurred from 1980 to 1982, then two years later his dominant three-year-old Red Anchor (1984) made it a record 7 Cox Plate wins.

Smith therefore broke the long-standing record of six wins set by Jack Holt, when Chanak (1947) gave the “the Wizard of Mordialloc” his sixth win in the race over a twenty-five-year period.

Cups King Bart Cummings prepared five winners of the race between 1973 and 2010, while Frank McGrath, Roy Shaw, Colin Hayes and Chris Waller are equal on three winners.

Form Focus Verdict

The rapid ascension of Chris Waller over the past decade has been quite stunning, Waller capturing Group 1 win number 90 when The Autumn Sun recently won the Caulfield Guineas.

Waller now sits in sixth position on the Form Focus All-Time Australian Group 1 Trainers Table. Given that his first G1 winner came just over a decade ago (Triple Honour in the 2008 Doncaster), it’s perfectly possible that he’ll catch John Hawkes (fifth on 110) and Lee Freedman (fourth on 125) within the next four or five seasons.

HORSE:

Knowledge & Insight

Being successful in any Group 1 feature race is some achievement but to be on the brink of a record four consecutive Cox Plate victories is something extraordinary for Winx on Saturday.

Four wins (or more) in the same feature Australian race (that currently holds G1 status) has been accomplished by Manikato (5 William Reid Stakes, 4 Futurity Stakes), Lord (4 Memsie Stakes) and Tie the Knot (4 Chipping Norton Stakes).

Trebles include Kingston Town (Cox Plate), Makybe Diva (Melbourne Cup), Black Caviar (Lightning Stakes), Wakeful (Mackinnon Stakes) and Lord Reims (Adelaide Cup).

Form Focus Verdict

After The Autumn Sun bolted away with the Caulfield Guineas, it was not unreasonable to hope the colt would tangle with Winx in the Cox Plate. How would he have fared if modern day stats are any guide?

Since Red Anchor collected the Caulfield Guineas-Cox Plate double in 1984, the Guineas winner has found the task of taking a further spike in performance to the Cox Plate more than difficult.

No fewer than 16 Guineas winners took the leap of faith into the Cox Plate, a mere two (All Too Hard-2012, Drawn-1985) filling a minor placing.

Overall, only four Guineas winners have been able to land the Cox Plate, 35 other Guineas winners failing.

Cox Plate:

TOP THREE

Form Focus Verdict

How does one mount a logical case to tip against Winx?

At WFA, from 1400m to 2000m, she is basically invincible – slow tempo, quick tempo, firm ground, soft ground, it doesn’t seem to matter.

Twelve months ago, Humidor really stretched Winx to the line in the Cox Plate of 2017. For trivia fans, this is only the seventh time that the Cox Plate quinella of the previous year do battle the following year. The winner has prevailed over the runner-up the next year in four of the six times they have had a year-on-year re-match.

Does Benbatl have the credentials?

Records show that the Caulfield Stakes winner has met the Turnbull Stakes (first run in 1948) winner in the Cox Plate on 15 occasions, the scoreline 8-7 in favour of the Caulfield Stakes.

The Turnbull winner had the edge 6-2 prior to 1994, however the Caulfield Stakes winner has surged since then – the Caulfield Stakes winner beating home the Turnbull winner in the Cox Plate in 6 of the 7 times they have clashed since.

Godolphin are enjoying a real purple patch, the Epsom (Hartnell), Bart Cummings (Avilius), Caulfield Stakes (Benbatl) and last week, the Caulfield Cup (Best Solution).

Assuming all goes to plan for Bowman, Winx to complete the four-timer with Benbatl and Humidor capable of spoiling the party.

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