Cox Plate Day 2023 is finally upon us on Saturday afternoon at Moonee Valley, with a bumper 10-race meeting set down for one of the marquee days on the Australian horse racing calendar. The track should be in perfect order following the meeting on Friday night, with the rail sticking to the true position for the entire circuit. Racing gets underway at 12:10pm AEDT.
Keep reading for our free race-by-race preview and quaddie selections for Cox Plate Day 2023
Race 1: Handicap (1000m)
Taunting has a runner-up effort to his name at The Valley and can go one better in the opener on Saturday. At Morphettville last time out, the son of Brazen Beau sat outside the lead, and when asked to quicken, he did so beautifully and had the race sewn up a long way out. Damian Lane should land in a similar spot on Saturday, with Unflinching set to lead the field up. Taunting looks to have a slight class edge on his rivals and it should be enough for him to win the opener.
A full field of 13 debutants will line up in the Listed Inglis Banner. In what looks to be a real ‘dartboard job’, Chosen Legend looks a nice type based on her last trial win. The Extreme Choice filly went to the line under a vice-like grip over 800m and looked to have another gear or two to go through. From barrier two, Zac Purton will look to hold the rail, and from there, as we know in two-year-old races, Chosen Legend should prove hard to gun down.
Wishlor Lass was a tough last-start winner in the Group 3 Ladies Day Vase (1600m) at Caulfield. The five-year-old looked to be beaten 100m out from home as Barbie’s Fox loomed up, but the Symon Wilde-trained mare had enough left in reserve to kick back and worry her rival out of it. That was her first win at the mile, and with Damian Lane on board from barrier one, she can add a second.
Gumdrops showed plenty of promise when leading the field up and responding under pressure to win in fine fashion at Ballarat on October 2. Three horses from that race have since come out and won their next start, suggesting it was quite a maiden field that she disposed of. Damian Lane will have her settled in the first six from barrier five. At a big price, Gumdrops can fight out the finish in a race which doesn’t look beyond her.
Prowess and connections had dreams of running in the Cox Plate, but a delayed start to her spring bought an end to those plans. However, she looks hard to go past in the Crystal Mile second-up from a spell. The Kiwi mare returned with a Group 3 runner-up effort at Hawera in New Zealand and returns to Australia for the first time since her dominant victory in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m). Mark Zahra will hop back on board from barrier one, from where the pair can stalk the speed throughout and then put them away with an electric turn of foot.
Skybird could be anything. Her two wins from her first two starts have been nothing short of breathtaking. On debut she gave her rivals a start and a beating, before backing it up at Bendigo in dominant fashion while giving her BM64 rivals 2.5kg at the weights. This is obviously a big step up in grade, but the Mitchell Freedman-trained filly looks more than up to this level.
Air Assault made a mess of his rivals in the Listed Hill Smith Stakes (1800m) at Morphettville. The Andrew Gluyas-trained gelding put 3.3 lengths on his rivals, controlling the race from the get go. He wasn’t slowing down over the 1800m, and the step up to 2040m looks ideal. Damian Lane should have no trouble finding the rail despite drawing barrier 10, and the pair should have it their own way out in front.
Imperatriz will be looking to become the first horse to complete the Moir Stakes and Manikato Stakes double since Spinning Hill in 2002. She gave her rivals a start and an emphatic beating in the Moir, with the runner-up since coming out and winning comfortably at Group 2 level. She is stepping up to her preferred distance of 1200m (7: 5-1-1), and with I Am Me and Jigsaw set to make this a truly run 1200m affair, it looks to be another sit-and-steer job for Opie Bosson.
Who will etch their name into Cox Plate (2040m) folklore? There look to be eight genuine winning chances in the 2023 edition, with the market leaning towards Hong Kong superstar Romantic Warrior. Alligator Blood, Fangirl, Gold Trip and Mr Brightside will be out to spoil the party, with youngsters like Victoria Road and Militarize looking to put their name up in lights.
Archo Nacho simply did too much wrong in the Group 2 Danehill Stakes (1100m), but he can he bounce back in the Group 3 Red Anchor Stakes (1200m). The Matt Laurie-trained gelding managed to get the better of the likes of I Am Unstoppable and King’s Gambit in his win the start prior, and a repeat effort of that run should be good enough to win this.