The 2014 Cox Plate will be led in the early stages by The Cleaner and trainer Mick Burles believes that the cult hero has improved significantly coming out of his win in the Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) at Moonee Valley on September 26.
The Cleaner secured a position in the Cox Plate field by taking out the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 6 and he improved his record to four wins and two placings from six starts at the tight-turning circuit by scoring another tough win in the JRA Cup.
Burles admits that he did not have The Cleaner fully wound up for the JRA Cup and believes that he has improved significantly heading into the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley this weekend.
“He has just improved out of sight since his JRA Cup,” Burles told Racing Ahead.
“I knew that he would because I didn’t really push him to win the JRA Cup.
“I thought that he had done enough and he got there and I reckon that he has improved two or three lengths from that run.”
The Cleaner was allocated the outside gate at the 2014 Cox Plate barrier draw on Tuesday morning, but jockey Steven Arnold revealed during the week that he did not believe that the outside draw would be a disadvantage for the seven-year-old.
Like Arnold, Burles is not concerned about the wide barrier and pointed to the fact that The Cleaner took out the David Bourke Provincial Plate (1610m) at Flemington in 2013 from the exact same barrier.
“I am sort of pleased with the outside gate because if you don’t get three, four or five it is better to get out of there where there is not too much trouble,” Burles said.
“He has won a couple of races in Melbourne out of barrier 14, so I am not fazed about it at all.
“Steve is a world class rider and he knows what he is doing.”
Both The Cleaner and Burles have been subject to a great deal of media attention since he qualified for a Cox Plate start and Burles has made no secret of the fact that he has not enjoyed his new found celebrity status.
The Cleaner was subject to a police escort and a ticket tape parade before he was loaded on the Spirit Of Tasmania that took him to Victoria and Burles said that the veteran gelding had handled all the attention in his usual nonplussed manner.
“Nothing seems to faze him,” Burles said.
“There was 100 people at the stable door yesterday when he was leaving with balloons, streamers and shit blowing everywhere and it didn’t faze him.
“He just walked out through them.
“It was a bit over the top probably, but people enjoyed it.
“The last half a dozen starts he has really put Tassie racing on the map and everybody is behind him.”
The Cleaner is currently available at 2014 Cox Plate odds of $14, while Fawkner ($4.50) remains favourite from Adelaide ($6.50) and Criterion ($7).