Jockey James McDonald is hoping the 2013 Cox Plate turns into a dog fight because he knows his mount It’s A Dundeel has all the qualities to come out the victor.
It’s A Dundeel, the reigning favourite for the Group 1 $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley tomorrow, has shown in the past that he is willing to dig deep in a close battle as he proved when he out slugged Atlantic Jewel in the Group 1 $400,000 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 21.
The High Chaparral stallion was well and truly in for the fight when he challenged Atlantic Jewel at the 150m and was able to push his head past the previously undefeated mare to relegate her to the runner up stall for the first time in her career.
“He’s always been up for it, that wasn’t the only race he’s show it in,” McDonald told the Sportsman.
“He has a great will to win and determination and that’s the main thing.”
“We’re going in all guns blazing.”
But It’s A Dundeel’s 2013 Cox Plate preparation has not been all plain sailing with the four year old suffering from a foot abscess which saw him miss a couple of days work after his win in the Underwood Stakes.
Kiwi trainer Murray Baker is confident that his stable star has overcome the setback and will be at peak condition come Saturday knowing that no Cox Plate winner for the past twenty-seven years has gone into the race without a run in the whole of October.
McDonald rode It’s A Dundeel work on Tuesday morning at ‘The Breakfast with the Best’ trackwork session at Moonee Valley and couldn’t fault his condition or his action.
“It was good work, he worked soundly and felt good and that’s the main thing,” McDonald said.
“I can put him anywhere I like in the run now so that’s good.”
McDonald was looking forward to a re-match with Atlantic Jewel but that was thwarted with the shock scratching of the Mark Kavanagh trained glamour mare shortly after the barrier draw on Tuesday after she was found to have damaged a tendon in trackwork.
Even though Atlantic Jewel is out of calculations, McDonald knows that it will still be a tough encounter.
“With the best horse out of the Cox Plate it makes it a little was easier but there’s still another thirteen to beat,” McDonald said.
“It’s one of the biggest races in Australia and it’d be good to win it.”
Before McDonald and Baker can hold aloft the 2013 Cox Plate, It’s A Dundeel has some historical hurdles to get over.
It’s A Dundeel, the winner of Group 1 $1.5m David Jones Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick in the Autumn, will have to be the first horse since Bonecrusher in 1986 to win the Australian Derby – Cox Plate double although Octagonal won the 1995 Cox Plate as a three year old and then came out and won the Australian Derby the following year.
While the mighty Saintly was only beaten a head by Octagonal in the 1996 Derby before going on the win the Cox Plate later in the year.
It’s A Dundeel remains the Cox Plate favourite at $4.20 just in front of Darren Weirs’s grey Puissance De Lune at $4.60 and the Gai Waterhouse trained Fiorente at $5.50.
Caulfield Guineas winner Long John has been solidly support and has firmed into $7.50 after $10 was bet earlier in the week.