Team Hawkes will send Caulfield Guineas winner All Too Hard to the paddock win, lose or draw after Saturday’s Group 1 $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
All Too Hard rocketed into Cox Plate calculations with a powerhouse win over Pierro in the Group 1 $1m BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield on October 13 reining in the Cox Plate favourite over the final fifty metres.
The Gai Waterhouse trained Pierro remained the $4 top pick for Saturday’s tussle while All Too Hard is a genuine chance on the fourth line of betting at $10 with Proisir, also from the Waterhouse stable with Green Moon ($4.60) and Ocean Park ($5.50) splitting the three year olds.
The Hawkes’ stable didn’t include Black Caviar’s half-brother in the first round of acceptances for the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on November 3 with John Hawkes indicating that the three year old deserves a well-earned break.
“He won’t be going to the Derby after Saturday, he’ll be off to the paddock,” said John Hawkes, who heads up the training partnership with his sons Michael and Wayne.
All Too Hard will be having his fifth start this campaign and is looking to even the score with Pierro after getting one win back in the Caulfield Guineas.
From three meetings to date Pierro holds a two to one advantage with wins over All Too Hard in the Group 1 $500,000 Inglis Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on April 14 when the Casino Prince was runner-up and in the Group 3 $125,000 The Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill on September 1 when he finished fifth.
All Too Hard will be having his first start on the tight Moonee Valley track where as Pierro handled the tricky circuit with ease in taking out the Group 2 $220,000 City Jeep Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 28.
Hawkes’ experiment with the barrier blanket on All Too Hard in the Caulfield Guineas was successful with the colt stepping away cleanly for the first time in several starts after developing a bad habit of missing the start in his most recent runs.
“They use the barrier blanket on Black Caviar and we were tinkering with a few things so I thought it was worth a try,” Hawkes said.
“I’m not certain it works or not but he jumped away cleanly in the Guineas and that made a big difference.
“It has been frustrating watching him get beaten this spring because I know how good this colt is. He’s up there with the best horses we’ve had.
“But All Too Hard brought his A-game to the Caulfield Guineas and that was the most pleasing part of his win.”
Grand slam winning jockey Chris Munce is back on All Too Hard replacing regular rider Dwayne Dunn who was unable to the make the 49.5kg that the three year old colts have to carrying at weight for age.
Munce got a feel for the top class colt in the weight for age Group 1 $350,000 George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on September 22 when finishing fourth to Shoot Out and is giving himself a great chance of winning his second Cox Plate after scoring on the Graeme Rogerson trained Savabeel in 2004.
“I thought he could win the Caulfield Guineas, his run in Sydney was fantastic. He’s on the improve, hasn’t plateaued out yet and I think the Cox Plate is a realistic goal for him,” Munce said.
Dunn has taken the ride on $21 chance Rekindled Interest while Corey Brown takes over from Nash Rawiller on Pierro with Rawiller sticking with Waterhouse’s glamour mare More Joyous ($13).