COX PLATE

2019

Moonee Valley, VIC / 2040m / Race 9
Saturday, October 26 at 4:55pm

Cox Plate:

STATISTICS

The Betting:

Knowledge & Insight

The shortest priced favourite in Cox Plate history occurred in 1931, Phar Lap facing just 6 rivals. “Big Red” already had the 1930 Cox Plate & Melbourne Cup (amongst numerous other features) on his CV, and in his quest for a second Cox Plate, was sent out 1/14 favourite. He easily defeated the three-year-old Chatham, himself to go on and win two Cox Plates (1932 and 1934).

First conducted in 1922, Cox Plate favourites had a ball in the early years, scoring 8 times in the first 11 years, but amazingly it took until 1970 before a mare started the punter’s elect.

The Bart Cummings-trained Gay Poss started 7/4f, however wound up sixth to the 3yo Abdul (33/1), then mares Young Ida (1973), How Now (1976) & La Mer (1978) followed in quick succession as Cox Plate favourite, but met the same fate as Gay Poss, all missing a place.

By this stage of Cox Plate history, things appeared pretty ordinary for the mares, as only two (both dual winners) had conquered the race – Tranquil Star (1942 & 1944) & Flight (1945 & 1946).

In 1983, Emancipation was 7/2 equal favourite, but Neville Begg’s champion mare failed to handle Moonee Valley, finishing eleventh.

The drought was broken when Dane Ripper at 40/1 caused a boilover in 1998, becoming the first mare in 51 years to win the Cox Plate, then Sunline scored in 1999 at 6/1.

In 2000, Sunline became the first mare to start favourite and win the Cox Plate, delivering a stunning 7 length victory as 11/8f. With the floodgates now open, Makybe Diva (2005) landed the money as $2 favourite, then of course, Winx in her “four-trella” of wins started favourite on each occasion (odds-on in her last 3).

Overall, the mares record when Cox Plate favourite (or joint favourite) is 14 starters for 6 wins and 1 second.

Form Focus Verdict

If you’re keen to back a longshot in tomorrow’s Cox Plate, bear in mind that only 10 horses have won the race at a SP of $21 (20/1) or longer. Longest-price of these was 50/1, firstly with Mosaic (1939), then with Leonard (1946) when the race was divided.

At 40/1, Dane Ripper scored in 1997, while Kingster (1955), Yeman (1958) & Abdul (1970) all started at 33/1.

For those keen to support the favourite, FORM FOCUS stats inform us that when the outright favourite starts at odds of $3.25 (9/4) or longer, it represents a high-risk gamble.

In 23 Cox Plates of such a scenario, the favourite has saluted just 3 times (13% strike-rate)

BARRIER POSITIONS:

Knowledge & Insight

The Cox Plate barrier stats as collected by FORM FOCUS are quite fascinating with the results of the past 60 years revealing:

  • Barrier 6 is the most successful with 8 wins
  • Barriers 5 & 7 are the next successful with 7 wins apiece
  • Barriers 1-7 have won on 45 occasions (75%)
  • Barriers 8, 12 & 14 have not provided a winner between them

Form Focus Verdict

A capacity field of 14 faces the starter tomorrow and FORM FOCUS has researched the size of Cox Plate fields since the Strathayr surface was introduced at Moonee Valley in 1995.

In the 7 years where a 14-horse field has contested the race, the barriers of the first 3 across the line reveals no appreciable bias to either inner, middle or outer:

  • 1995: 6-11-9
  • 2005: 4-8-10
  • 2011: 11-9-3
  • 2012: 9-3-7
  • 2013: 3-2-14
  • 2014: 13-4-11
  • 2015: 1-7-4

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.

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, who returned to defend her crown in 1946 and succeeded, (the race run in two divisions that year).

The other 5 mares to land the Cox Plate are Dane Ripper winning for Bart Cummings in 1998, Sunline (1999 & 2000), Makybe Diva (2005), Pinker Pinker (2011) and the champion Winx, the Chris Waller-trained mare having totally dominated the race over the past 4 years (2015-2018).

Form Focus Verdict

With a significant weight advantage, three-year-olds invariably appear attractively placed, and with Spring Champion runner-up Castelvecchio afforded a start, let’s examine if he compares favourably to other 3yos to snare the Cox Plate.

Overall, 20 3yos have won the race, with 9 of those in the past 50 years. Importantly, all 9 had finalised their respective Cox Plate campaigns with a top 5 finish in a 3yo Group 1 event. The 9 ranged in price from 8/11f (Red Anchor-1984) to $21 (Shamus Award-2013).

In a year with no dominant WFA local star and with the four Internationals possessing a variety of credentials, Castelvecchio must be considered a genuine threat.

At the other end of the spectrum, just one winner has been aged older than eight, that being the two-time Cox Plate winning warhorse Fields of Omagh who was nine when he swooped late to score in 2006.

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 MV Gold Cup (worth 1000 pounds in 1922).

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

A week 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.

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

Form Focus Verdict

Described as the Weight-for-Age Championship of Australia, the Cox Plate has more than justified that tag with a history unchallenged by other WFA Group 1 events conducted in this country.

One interesting feature of the race’s relationship with the “Race that stops the Nation”, the Melbourne Cup, is that just 5 horses have been able to complete the double in the same year.

In 1929, Nightmarch became the first winner of the double, 12 months later Phar Lap also claimed the two races during his 4yo year of almost complete domination.

In 1954, Rising Fast became the first horse (and remains the only horse) to annexe the Caulfield Cup-Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup treble in an utterly amazing Spring campaign. It took a further 42 years until Saintly (1996) delivered the double for Bart Cummings, then Makybe Diva took the Cox Plate before her historic third straight Melbourne Cup in 2005.

A total of 35 other Cox Plate winners have ventured to Flemington in an attempt to do the Plate/Cup double in the same Spring, however all failed to emulate the above “famous five”.

Cox Plate:

FORM PROFILE

LEAD UP FORM:

Knowledge & Insight

The 2019 Cox Plate has this year attracted a variety of feature lead-up winners and dissecting these to uncover the winner is one of the many ways FORM FOCUS assists by providing background information and trends.

Here are the stats for the winners of these races going into past editions the Cox Plate:

  • Caulfield Stakes – 57 starters, 16 wins (28%), 12 seconds, 6 thirds (2019: Cape of Good Hope)
  • Turnbull Stakes – 34 starters, 11 wins (32%), 6 seconds, 6 thirds (2019: Kings Will Dream)
  • Underwood Stakes – 51 starters, 16 wins (31%), 8 seconds, 1 third (2019: Black Heart Bart)
  • Hill Stakes – 28 starters, 10 wins (35%), 3 seconds 1 third (2019: Verry Elleegant)
  • George Main Stakes – 33 starters, 5 wins (15%), 2 seconds, 3 thirds (2019: Avilius)
  • Feehan Stakes – 39 starters, 9 wins (27%), 2 seconds, 6 thirds (2019: Homesman)
  • Lawrence Stakes – 20 starters for 3 wins (15%), 2 seconds, 3 thirds (2019: Mystic Journey)

Form Focus Verdict

In the 98 previous editions of the Cox Plate on just 4 occasions has the winner emerged directly out of the Epsom Handicap. Interestingly, all 4 have occurred in the modern era – Dane Ripper (1997), Sunline (1999), Pinker Pinker (2011) & Winx (2015).

Highly-rated Kiwi Te Akau Shark is aiming to join these four, and coupled with his horrific barrier position, it appears he does have some mountain to climb.

Fair to suggest that the same applies to Avilius. As the winner of the George Main Stks, Avilius is trying to emulate two of the legends of Cox Plate history – Kingston Town & Winx.

A total of 33 George Main winners have contested the Cox Plate, however the double has been completed just 5 times by 2 horses – Winx (2016, 2017, 2018) & Kingston Town (1981, 1982).

JOCKEY:

Knowledge & Insight

With five wins between 1933 and 1952, Darby Munro is the leading overall Cox Plate jockey, one ahead of Jack Purtell, Brent Thomson & Hugh Bowman on four each. 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).

Partnering Winx in each of her four consecutive Cox Plate victories, Hugh Bowman is now one ahead of 3 riders with three Cox Plate winners apiece – Harold Badger, Neville Sellwood and Glen Boss.

Form Focus Verdict

Just 3 riders of the top 14 acceptors have enjoyed prior success in the Cox Hugh Bowman (Kings Will Dream) having Winx in her past 4 straight Plate victories.

In 2014, Ryan Moore (Magic Wand) partnered Adelaide Ryan Moore (Magic Wand) scored long priced wins on Fields of Omagh (2006) & Pinker Pinker (2011).

Fresh from Caulfield Cup success on Mer de Glace, Damian Lane (Lys Gracieux) would enter rarefied territory should he also land the Cox Plate.

Just 6 riders boast wins in both races in the same Spring, Craig Williams in 2011 (Southern Speed & Pinker Pinker) the most recent. The other five are Jim Johnson (1967), Harold Badger (1947), Scobie Breasley (1944), Billy Duncan (1928) & New Zealander George Young (1924).

TRAINER:

Knowledge & Insight

Trainer of three-time winner Kingston Town, Tommy (T.J.) Smith is the Cox Plate record-holder in the training ranks, his other winners being Redcraze 1957), Tulloch (1960), Gunsynd (1972) & Red Anchor (1984).

Smith’s win with Red Anchor broke the long-standing record of six wins set by Jack Holt Chanak (1947) gave the “the Wizard of Mordialloc” his sixth win in the race over a 25-year period.

Cups King Bart Cummings prepared five winners of the race between 1973 and 2010, while Chris Waller sits fourth on the overall Cox Plate table, Winx delivering Waller the past four Cox Plates.

With three wins apiece, Frank McGrath, Roy Shaw, & Colin Hayes are equal fifth in the overall rankings.

Form Focus Verdict

With 107 Australian Group 1 winners in a little over 11 years, Chris Waller currently sits sixth on the All Time Australian Group One Trainers Table.

Shooting for Cox Plate number 5, he has Kings Will Dream & Verry Elleegant, Waller being one of just 4 trainers that have won the same Group One event in five consecutive years.

James Wilson (Senior) won 5 straight VRC Oaks (1875-1879), while Colin Hayes took the SAJC Oaks from 1973 to 1977. This race is now known as the SA Fillies Classic and was G1 until 2005.

Bob Hoysted won 5 straight William Reid Stakes with Manikato (1979-1983), however that was when the race was Group 2 (upgraded to G1 in 1987).

Waller’s five have come via the George Main Stakes (2014-2018).

HORSE:

Knowledge & Insight

A healthy 50% of the past 30 Cox Plate winners have come off a last start victory with a further 8 notching a minor placing (second/third) in their final lead-up race to the Plate.

The remaining 7 “limped” into the Cox Plate via a variety of last start performances:

In 1991, Surfers Paradise finished tenth in a moderate NZ Handicap (1575m) after two consecutive seconds in G1 WFA events in NZ.

In 1997, Dane Ripper could only manage eleventh in the Epsom Handicap in her final prep race, similarly Sunline in 1999 was unplaced (fourth) in the Epsom.

In 2006, Fields of Omagh came off a respectable fourth in the Caulfield Stakes to claim his second Cox Plate, then in 2007 El Segundo turned his form around after a lack-lustre sixth in the Turnbull.

In 2008, Maldivian backed up after a ninth in the Caulfield Cup, the following year So You Think bounced off a closing fifth in the Caulfield Guineas to take the first of his two Cox Plates.

What this illustrates is that while solid last start form is obviously preferable going into the Cox Plate, it’s nevertheless foolhardy to disregard a below-par or mediocre lead-up start.

Form Focus Verdict

Tasmanian mare Mystic Journey has been spoken about as a potential Cox Plate winner since she dominated the Autumn, winning the inaugural All Star Mile after a commanding victory in the Australian Guineas.

Is that the type of 3yo form that a 4yo mare has on her CV to justify a high Cox Plate ranking?

A study of past Australian Guineas winners progressing to the Cox Plate as a 4yo unearths some useful information but it’s hardly earth-shattering.

Just 7 Australian Guineas have tackled the Cox Plate at four with all seven failing to land a first three finish. Flotilla (1988), King’s High (1989), Gold Guru (1998), Apache Cat (2006), Heart of Dreams (2009) & Shamrocker (2011) all won the Guineas at three but failed to feature in their respective Cox Plate quests.

Perhaps the most relevant comparison is with Miss Finland, a Golden Slipper winner at two & a multiple G1 winning filly at three who beat the boys in the Australian Guineas and started $4 favourite in the 2007 Cox Plate.

Like Mystic Journey did this year, Miss Finland resumed with a first-up victory (G2 Memsie Stks over 1400m), then was second in the Underwood and fourth in the Caulfield Stakes – quite a similar profile to Mystic Journey in 2019.

Miss Finland eventually was fourth to El Segundo in the 2007 Cox Plate.

Cox Plate:

TOP THREE

Form Focus Verdict

An International quinella is predicted for the 2019 Cox Plate, Japanese mare LYS GRACIEUX selected to score from Ballydoyle’s representative MAGIC WAND.

With the shadow of last week’s Caulfield Cup victory of Mer de Glace hovering above the Cox Plate form-guide all week, LYS GRACIEUX holds most of the aces in what looks a most even edition of The Valley’s signature event.

Putting International Ratings to one side, the mare’s overall Group race form, racing style and her in-form rider Damian Lane make her the one they all have to beat. Lane has had a stellar 2019 and is on the brink of becoming the first jockey to ride the winners of the Golden Slipper, Caulfield Cup & Cox Plate in the same calendar year.

With 12 of her past 13 starts at Group One level in the Northern Hemisphere, MAGIC WAND, although winless since June 2018, brings some quality placed G1 form into the Cox Plate. A low draw, Ryan Moore and an ability to position forward will be assets in what looks (on paper) to be a tactical affair.

Luck in running and variables relevant to pace and tactics should sort out the third place-getter. Any of about six or seven could fill third but we will go with CASTELVECCHIO (a 3yo in an even year is generally a safe bet) & HOMESMAN who compares favourably to past Feehan & Cox Plate winners in that he produced a relatively negative performance in the lead-up to a much improved Cox Plate result.