The 2014 Cox Plate form guide will be pored over by punters right around leading into the Group 1 event at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
The Cox Plate has drawn an intriguing field of Australian Group 1 winners, talented European gallopers and promising three-year-olds and there are plenty of winning chances in the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship.
Our team of horse racing experts have complied a comprehensive 2014 Cox Plate form guide that has all the information that you need to know about all 14 horses set to contest the $3.5 million event.
1.Sacred Falls (59kg)
Sacred Falls remains one of the best-backed runners in 2014 Cox Plate betting markets, but there are still some question marks over the ability of the O’Reilly entire to run out a strong 2040 metres. The five-year-old started his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with fair performances in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on August 23 and the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at the same venue on September 6 before he returned to winning form in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) on September 20. Sacred Falls ran home strongly to finish fourth in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 11, but jockey Zac Purton indicated after the race that he though the five-year-old was a little bit flat in the final stages of the race.
Update: Sacred Falls has been one of the big drifters in 2014 Cox Plate betting markets in the past 24 hours and he is now out to a quote of $7.50 to join Kingston Town as the only horse to complete the George Main Stakes/Cox Plate double.
Justine Hales, the Melbourne foreman for the Chris Waller stable, said that she was happy with the performance of Sacred Falls in the Caulfield Stakes and hopes he can settle a bit closer to the speed in the Cox Plate this weekend.
“The other day it was too hard to make up the ground and if he had have been closer he would have finished a lot closer to the winner,” Hales said.
“I’m not saying he would have beaten Fawkner, but he would have been closer and Zac knows him so well.”
Fawkner is favourite in 2014 Cox Plate betting markets and is clearly the horse to beat in the Group 1 event this weekend. The seven-year-old returned to the races with a close second behind Dissident in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on September 13 before he stamped himself as Cox Plate favourite with a tough win in the Caulfield Stakes. Fawkner has drawn ideally in barrier four and he is an excellent chance of becoming the first horse since Might And Power to win the Cox Plate a year after taking out the Caulfield Cup.
Update: Fawkner remains a clear favourite in 2014 Cox Plate betting markets and owner Lloyd Williams revealed this morning that the Reset gelding is in top shape ahead of the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship this afternoon.
Jockey Nick Hall has been the regular rider of Fawkner throughout his racing career and be believes that the Reset gelding is in the best condition of his career heading into the Cox Plate this weekend.
“He has had a perfect preparation,” Hall said.
“He has taken the next step now and I think that he is in for his best season and that is what happens out at Lloyd’s; he doesn’t race them until they are older and that is why they are better when they are older.”
3. Side Glance (59kg)
Side Glance will be having his second start in the Cox Plate after he finished a credible sixth behind Shamus Award last year. The veteran gelding performed well in races like the Group 1 Dubai World Cup (2000m) and Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m) earlier this year and was third in both the Group 1 United Nations Stakes (2212m) and Arlington Million Stakes (2011m) in the United States before making the trip to Australia. Side Glance returned to Australian racing with a third place finish in the Caulfield Stakes and he is set to produce another consistent performance in the Cox Plate, but may not be good enough to win the race.
Update: Trainer Andrew Balding arrived in Australia on Thursday and he revealed that he was thrilled with the physical condition of Side Glance and is confident that the veteran gelding is a better horse from his tough run in the Cox Plate last year.
Leanne Masterton has looked after Side Glance since he arrived in Australia and he is delighted with the condition of the Passing Glance gelding and believes that he has taken plenty of benefit out of his run in the Caulfield Stakes.
“He feels fantastic, he lost a few kilos (after the Caulfield Stakes), put that straight back on and feels really good,” Masterton said.
“I think it will probably benefit him, having a race this year.
“He was fresh last year.”
4.Happy Trails (59kg)
Happy Trails finished a close second behind Shamus Award in the Cox Plate last year and he has the chance to become the first horse since El Segundo in 2007 to win the Cox Plate after finishing second the year before. The veteran gelding started his spring preparation with fair performances in the Group 3 Spring Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville on August 9 and the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 30 before he returned to his best form with a close second behind Foreteller in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 20. Happy Trails was never asked for an extra effort after being blocked for a run in the final stages of the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4, but made up good ground when fifth in the Caulfield Stakes. The Good Journey gelding always tries his hardest and can never be ruled out as a winning chance.
Update: Happy Trails has been a slight drifter in Cox Plate betting, but connections remain hopeful that popular gelding can return to winning form this afternoon and deliver jockey Damien Oliver his third win in the Cox Plate after previously winning on Dane Ripper (1997) and Northerly (2001).
Trainer Paul Beshara has been bullish about the Cox Plate chances of Happy Trails throughout this preparation and he remains supremely confident that he can go one better in the 2014 edition of the race.
“He is very well; he is eating well, he is working well and he looks well,” Beshara said.
“I am pretty confident and I think that he will win.
“I don’t think that there is a horse in there that can sprint with him when he is at his best.
5. Foreteller (59kg)
Foreteller earnt a place in the 2014 Cox Plate field after he impressed trainer Chris Waller with his trackwork at Breakfast With The Best on Tuesday morning and he has been his usual honest self this campaign. The imported galloper resumed with a fourth place finish in the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 16 and he flashed home late for third in the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 6 before he recorded his third win at Group 1 level in the Underwood Stakes. Foreteller was far from disgraced when eighth in the Caulfield Stakes, but will likely need plenty of luck in running to win the Cox Plate this weekend.
Update: Foreteller has remained friendless in betting at Cox Plate odds of $34 and the way that Moonee Valley track played at the Manikato Stakes meeting last night does not bode well for the chances of the Dansili gelding, who will likely be settled towards the tail of the field.
Justine Hales said that she had given Foreteller a soft couple of weeks coming out of the Caulfield Stakes, but was happy with his work at Moonee Valley on Tuesday and is thrilled with his condition heading into the Cox Plate.
“He is really well,” Hales said.
“He had a little bit of quiet time after his last run and just because we only have the two weeks between runs we have been doing a few different things like taking him to the beach a bit more and things like that.
“He really enjoyed his gallop around yesterday, he worked really well, and he was bright yesterday afternoon.”
6. The Cleaner (59kg)
The Cleaner is the Cinderella story of the 2014 Cox Plate and a Group 1 victory would cap off one of the most remarkable stories in the history of Australian racing. The Cleaner was purchased for just $10,000 at the 2009 Tasmanian Magic Millions Sale, but he has become one of the most popular horses in Australia because of his exciting front-running style. The Savoire Vivre gelding earnt a place in the Cox Plate field by scoring a tough win in the Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes and he proved that win was no fluke when he led all the way in the Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) at Moonee Valley on September 26. There are still question marks over whether The Cleaner has the class to win the Cox Plate, but he will be in front for a long way and has proven a tough horse to get past at Moonee Valley.
Update: The Cleaner was given a ticket tape parade and a police escort before he boarded the Spirit Of Tasmania to make the trip to Melbourne, but trainer Mick Burles said that the cult hero had handled the trip without any problems and had settled in Melbourne well.
The Cleaner has drawn the outside barrier for the Cox Plate, but jockey Steven Arnold does not believe that will be a problem for the seven-year-old and he should have no problems finding the lead in his Group 1 debut.
“The last three get the outside draws, but for this guy I don’t think that it is a huge concern,” Arnold said.
“Sometimes he can step slightly slowly and we are just going to roll at his tempo and if it takes me 200 metres or 400 metres to roll to the front then that is fine, I don’t have to be in a panic and try to drive him out at the stalls or anything like that.”
7. Guest Of Honour (59kg)
Guest Of Honour is one of three European horses in the 2014 Cox Plate and he is the clear outsider of the field at Cox Plate odds of $61. Guest Of Honour took out the Listed Ganton Stakes (1609m) at York on June 14 and the Group 2 Summer Mile Stakes (1609m) during the 2014 Royal Ascot Meeting before making the trip to Australia, but was not particularly impressive when ninth in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 11. The Cape Cross entire has strong European form, but he is unproven over 2000 metres and may just lack the quality needed to win the Cox Plate.
Update: Guest Of Honour remains the clear outsider in betting markets for the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship at Cox Plate odds of $81, but the Marco Botti-trained galloper impressed onlookers with his final piece of trackwork at the Werribee International Equine Centre.
Co-owner Darren Dance said that Guest Of Honour left himself too much work to do in the final stages of the Toorak Handicap and he believes that the Northern Hemisphere five-year-old took plenty of benefit out of the run.
“Damien (Oliver) said he felt the horse was looking for a bit further and he’ll obviously improve off that run,” Dance said.
“He must have stood them up 12 lengths at the top of the corner and was beaten three-and-a-half so he got a pass mark on the run and he’s clearly up to the grade.”
8. Criterion (57.5kg)
Criterion has had strong 2014 Cox Plate lead-up form and is rated a genuine chance of becoming the first horse since Bonecrusher in 1986 to complete the Australian Derby/Cox Plate double. The Sebring entire started his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with a tough third in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on August 23, but produced the worst performance of his career to date in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at the same venue on September 6, but he returned to his best form with second place finishes in both the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Caulfield Stakes. Criterion’s run in the Caulfield Stakes was very impressive and he looms as the major danger to Adelaide.
Update: Criterion has been the best backed runner in 2014 Cox Plate betting markets in the past 24 hours and he is set to start the race on the second line of betting behind only Caulfield Stakes conqueror Fawkner.
James McDonald has been booked to ride Criterion following the suspension of regular hoop Hugh Bowman and McDonald is thrilled to have picked up the ride on the four-year-old and believes that he is peaking for the Cox Plate this weekend.
“I chased him home a couple of times in the Rosehill Guineas and the (Australian) Derby there,” McDonald said.
“His performances are very good, obviously he has taken a bit of time to warm up here, but his best performance was last week and he is peaking for the right time isn’t he.”
9. Silent Achiever (57kg)
Silent Achiever was one of the star performers of the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, but she has been unable to replicate that form heading into the Cox Plate. The talented mare started her preparation with a credible fourth in the Memsie Stakes, but was beaten as favourite in the Underwood Stakes and was unable to run home strongly when ninth in the Turnbull Stakes. Silent Achiever has recorded just one win from nine starts in Melbourne and the daughter of O’Reilly does not appear to be going well enough to win the Cox Plate.
Update: Silent Achiever has been the forgotten horse heading into the 2014 Cox Plate field and she is now out to $15 to overcome her poor record in Melbourne and join Ocean Park, Savabeel and Bonecrusher as notable New Zealand-trained winners of the race.
Trainer Roger James admits that Silent Achiever has been disappointing during her spring campaign, but he has been pleased with the work of the six-year-old and remains hopeful that she can return to her best form in the Cox Plate.
“Her form, solid is being polite probably, but I think that she is close to the form that she was in in Sydney,” James said.
“It is fair to say that mile and a half is her best trip, but it will be a tough 2000 metres.
“She has the ability to sit fairly close to the pace and I think that the footing here will help her.”
10. Royal Descent (57kg)
Royal Descent may be the most consistent horse in Australia, but she has been unable to record a race win since he romped home in the 2013 edition of the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m). The five-year-old returned to the races with a second place finish in the Warwick Stakes and was narrowly denied a breakthrough win by stablemate Hawkspur in the Chelmsford Stakes. Royal Descent finished second again behind Sacred Falls in the George Main Stakes and looked the winner in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m), but she was caught on the line by stablemate He’s Your Man. The step-up to 2000 metres should suit Royal Descent and she should be able to finish in the top five, but her inability to win is some concern.
Update: Royal Descent has remained steady in betting throughout the week and trainer Chris Waller is hopeful that his favourite mare can break her winning drought in one of the biggest events on the Australian Racing Calendar.
Glen Boss has been booked to ride Royal Descent in the Cox Plate and he believes that the consistent mare may be the ideal horse for the pressure cooker of the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship.
“I absolutely think that it will suit her,” Boss said.
“She has been kept to a mile simply to keep the speed in her legs because she is a mare that can get over a mile and a half when she is trained up.
“You need a horse with turn-of-foot and still a little bit of speed in their legs, but you need a horse that is strong at the end of 2000 metres.”
11. Adelaide (56kg)
Adelaide is the wildcard in the 2014 Cox Plate and is arguably the best European-trained horse ever to contest the Group 1 event. The Galileo entire started his racing season with a second place finish in the Group 2 Prix Hocquart (2200m) in France on May 11 before he took out the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes (2011m) at Curragh on May 25. He finished second in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes (2414m) during the 2014 Royal Ascot meeting before he was sent to the United States where he finished second in the Group 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (2011m) and won the Group 1 Secretariat Stakes (2011m). Adelaide had no luck when third in the Group 2 Prix Niel (2400m) at Longchamp on September 14, but the form coming out that race is strong. On prove form Adelaide deserves to be considered one of the leading chances for the Cox Plate, but there are concerns about his ability to handle the unique Moonee Valley track.
Update: Punters have struggled to get a grip on the winning chances of Adelaide in the Cox Plate, but bookmakers have kept the Group 1 winner safe at a quote of about $7 throughout the week.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien is not in Australia to oversee the preparation of Adelaide, but he is happy with the form of the Northern Hemisphere three-year-old and believes he will be tough to beat in the Cox Plate.
“He is in good form,” O’Brien said.
“He has had a couple of nice runs; he had a nice run in France last time and he won in America the time before that, so he seems to be in good form.
“(Stable representatives) T.J. and David seem to be happy with him down there.”
12. Almalad (49.5kg)
The Cox Plate has always been the major 2014 Spring Racing Carnival target for Almalad and he receives his chance in the weight-for-age event despite performing inconsistently during his spring campaign. Almalad returned to racing with a disappointing ninth place finish in the Group 3 The Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on August 30 before he returned to a semblance of his best form when fourth in the Group 1 Golden Rose Stakes (1400m) at the same venue on September 13. The Al Maher gelding recorded the first win of his spring preparation in the Group 2 Stutt Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on September 26, but he weaken in the final stages of the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) on October 11.
Update: Almalad is the favored of the two Gai Waterhouse-trained horses in the Cox Plate field, but jockey Craig Newitt revealed yesterday that he thought the Al Maher gelding was disappointing in the Caulfield Guineas and would need to improve significantly to be any chance at weight-for-age level this weekend.
Almalad is rated only an outside chance in the 2014 Cox Plate, but trainer Gai Waterhouse was pleased with the way that the Group 1 winner worked during Breakfast With The Best at Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning.
“I thought that it was very good work,” Waterhouse said.
“He worked over 1000 metres and he came home very strongly.”
13. Sweynesse (49.5kg)
Sweynesse has been the clear market mover in 2014 Cox Plate betting markets and is now into a quote of $21 after opening at $34 on Tuesday morning. The Godolphin colt stamped himself as a horse to watch with a string of victories in the Early Quaddie Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on August 30, Group 3 Spring Stakes (1600m) at Newcastle on September 17 and the Group 3 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill Gardens on September 27, but he suffered his first defeat when third behind Hampton Court and First Seal in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on October 11. Sweynesse is the most highly regarded of the three-year-olds in the Cox Plate field, but he weakened in the final stages of the Spring Champion Stakes and faces stiffer competition this weekend.
Update: Sweynesse has been the best-backed runner since the 2014 Cox Plate field was released on Tuesday morning and he is now into a quote of $16 to deliver Godolphin their first win in the race after opening at the lengthy odds of $34.
Trainer John O’Shea put a lot of thought into whether to run Sweynesse in the Cox Plate, but he is happy to give the Lonhro colt an opportunity at weight-for-age level and believes he has the right attributes to record an upset win.
“He is a lovely colt, he is a big strong brut of a thing, 49 and a half for him is going to be a postage stamp and he is happy horse at the moment,” O’Shea said.
“He has a very relaxed demeanor, nothing fazes him and he will just bob around here on Saturday and that is a big help to him getting the job done.”
14. Wandjina (49.5kg)
Wandjina has been a controversial inclusion in the Cox Plate field, but he has similar Cox Plate form lines to last year’s winner Shamus Award. The Snitzel colt produced mixed performances without winning in the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1100m), Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1200m), Group 3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude (1400m) and Listed Vintage Stakes (1400m) before he stamped himself as a Cox Plate hopeful when he ran home strongly for third in the Caulfield Guineas – the same position that Shamus Award finished in the race before winning the Cox Plate. Wandjina’s performances in the Caulfield Guineas was impressive, but the jury is out on whether he can replicate that performances in the Cox Plate.
Update: Veteran jockey Dean Yendall will partner Wandjina in the Cox Plate, his first ride in the race, and he revealed yesterday that he will be looking to get on the back of Fawkner in the early stages of the Cox Plate before hopefully finishing over the top of his rivals in the final stages of the race.
Waterhouse fought strongly for Wandjina to be allowed to run in the Cox Plate and she believes that the three-year-old is worthy of his place in the race.
“Look at last year, Shamus Award was a maiden,” Waterhouse said.
The form of Wandjina has been outstanding.
“He is not a blow-in; he ran third in the Guineas and he should be there.
“I’m really surprised how well Wandjina came out of the Guineas, he just copped it on the chin.”