The final field for this Saturday’s running of the 101st W.S. Cox Plate was announced on Tuesday morning, and it is not without some controversy.
An “elite 10” was decided on by the Moonee Valley Racing Club Committee, which saw the exclusion of the Japanese galloper Keiai Nautique.
Despite the fact that the Cox Plate can accommodate a field of 14, the MVRC Committee members opted for a quality-over-quantity approach.
“We felt that his form just simply wasn’t good enough to participate in the field,” the Chairman of the Moonee Valley Racing Club, Don Casboult, told Racing.com.
“He’s not won for three years; he won a Group 1 race as a three-year-old – I think he’s had 20 starts (since), over that 20 starts, he’s been placed on one occasion.
“It is a very elite 10.”
Completing their final piece of trackwork on Tuesday morning were the majority of the Cox Plate field, with race favourite Zaaki working alongside his stablemate Mo’unga.
The Annabel Neasham-trained pair have drawn barrier six and four respectively, with both horses to be ridden by Sydney jockeys in James McDonald and Hugh Bowman.
While Zaaki has been known to be a lazy trackworker, stable representative Todd Pollard saw exactly what he wanted from the $2.80 favourite this morning at ‘Breakfast with the Stars’.
“He just seems to be going a lot better than what he probably was going into his last start, just in terms of his final piece of work on the Tuesday,” Pollard told Racing.com.
“He knows when it’s race day; he’s pretty quiet back at home, but he gets along to a day like this and he prances around and he’s on his toes.
“He seems right where he want him to be.”
Zaaki was once a $1.85 favourite for the 2040m feature this weekend, but after being defeated as a $1.22 favourite in the Might And Power Stakes at Caulfield on October 9, he has drifted out to a much more backable price.
While the stable did not want to make too many excuses for the horse’s indifferent run, they are confident that he has handled Moonee Valley much better than he did Caulfield.
“He seems to handle this track a lot better than he did at Caulfield,” Pollard said.
“Many people say that too – you come from Sydney and quite often they don’t handle the Caulfield track, but they come to Moonee Valley and just get on so much better with it.
“On his two pieces of work, he seems to have fitted around The Valley perfect.”
Verry Elleegant is another who worked on Tuesday morning as she prepares for her second attempt at the Cox Plate.
The nine-time Group 1 winner will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing run in the Turnbull Stakes last start, but she will have to overcome barrier nine.
Damian Lane will partner the mare on Saturday, with the 2019 Cox Plate-winning jockey saying that she is in “good order”.
“She seems to have come through the Turnbull run in good order and I’m happy with where she’s at leading into Saturday,” Lane said.
“Today was more of a maintenance gallop, but I felt she was in even better order today.
“She’s a champion and she won’t stay down for too long.
“The Cox Plate has a funny way of finding the best horse to win the race, and hopefully that happens again this time around.”
The field of 10 sees two three-year-old colts line up, with Anamoe and Captivant out to do battle once again after running first and second in the Caulfield Guineas.
Anamoe will jump from the outside barrier under Craig Williams, while his sparring partner will jump from barrier one for Dean Yendall.
So You Think and Shamus Award are the only two three-year-old colts to have won the Cox Plate since 2009, yet the market has Anamoe as a $4 second favourite, with Captivant a $21 chance with online bookmakers.
New Zealand gelding Callsign Mav is looking to make it three-straight Group 1 victories, after claiming the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m) in his two runs over the past month, with the John Bary-trained five-year-old set to jump from barrier five under Luke Nolen.
Fellow Kiwi Probabeel will run from barrier seven, the most successful barrier in the race’s history, with 15 winners jumping from the gate.
The other international runners, Gold Trip and State Of Rest, will jump from barriers two and eight respectively, while last-start Epsom Handicap placegetter Dalasan will be hoping to win his maiden Group 1 from barrier three.
2021 Cox Plate field
- Zaaki (6) | T: Annabel Neasham | J: James McDonald (59kg)
- Dalasan (3) | T: Leon McDonald & Andrew Gluyas | J: Daniel Moor (59kg)
- Gold Trip (2) | T: Ciaron Maher & David Eustace | J: Damien Oliver (59kg)
- Callsign Mav (5) | T: John Bary | J: Luke Nolen (59kg)
- Mo’unga (4) | T: Annabel Neasham | J: Hugh Bowman (57.5kg)
- Verry Elleegant (9) | T: Chris Waller | J: Damian Lane (57kg)
- Probabeel (7) | T: Jamie Richards | J: Brett Prebble (57kg)
- State Of Rest (8) | T: Joseph O’Brien | J: John Allen (56.5kg)
- Anamoe (10) | T: James Cummings | J: Craig Williams (49.5kg)
- Captivant (1) | T: Peter & Paul Snowden | J: Dean Yendall (49.5kg)