The 101st running of the W.S. Cox Plate went to the Irish, after State Of Rest gave Joseph O’Brien his third Australian major.
Trained by the son of the great Aidan O’Brien and ridden by fellow Irishman John Allen, the four-year-old won the Moonee Valley feature in a nail-biter against three-year-old colt Anamoe, before once again having to fend off the challenges from Anamoe’s connections in the Stewards’ Room.
Craig Williams, the jockey of Anamoe, fired in a protest shortly after winning post, with the belief that the winner had laid in over the concluding stages of the 2040m race, but it was to no avail, despite a lengthy hearing in the Stewards’ Room.
The protest only added to the drama of the Cox Plate, after the original race favourite, Zaaki, was scratched on race morning.
Having won the Melbourne Cup in 2017 and 2020, Joseph O’Brien now has a Cox Plate on his resume.
After settling with only three horses behind him, Allen found a winning gap before the turn and shot through to race clear, while Anamoe followed him through and was inevitably left with a margin too big to reel in.
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Although O’Brien could not be in Australia due to COVID protocols, the stable’s travelling foreman, Mark Power, was on course at The Valley.
Power described the anxious wait for the protest result as “not good for the heart”.
“It’s not good for the heart – I’m absolutely trembling like a leaf,” Power told Racing.com.
“Johnny Allen was super, he’s strong as an ox. You couldn’t have a better man on your side.
“Luckily we had Johnny.
“It’s a relatively new process for me and luckily we came out on the right side of it.”
While Australian Group 1 success is no rarity for John Allen, the victory in Saturday’s $5 million race did give him his first major, with the hoop jokingly saying that there were too many Irishmen in the Stewards’ Room for the Stewards to understand them.
“Craig (Williams)’s always a good talker, we all know that,” the jockey said.
“I think there were too many Paddies in there for them to understand us.
“The way it was going, there were a few anxious moments, but I think the right decision was made.
“There was a bit of a bump there and I couldn’t celebrate. Thank God we got the win and it’s been a great job by Mark and the team.”
Channel Seven broadcasted the event across free-to-air television and were able to interview the winning trainer from his Irish base.
“It’s very special to win the Cox Plate,” O’Brien told Channel 7.
“Firstly, it’s very special to be able to take part this year.”
O’Brien was confident they had the best horse and would keep the result despite the protest, but he admitted there were a few “anxious” moments.
“The longer it goes on, the more you start doubting yourself,” the trainer said.
“I’m very thankful that the result came our way and very proud of the horse’s performance.”