The barriers were drawn yesterday for the race many regard as the finest on the Australian racing calendar, the Tattersalls WS Cox Plate, to be run at Moonee Valley this Saturday.
The occasional racing follower and punter will probably believe I have lost the plot – the Melbourne Cup is surely the finest race of them all? Many think not. And the case for regarding the Cox Plate as the “finest” race in Australia is a strong one.
It is run at standard weight for age – allowing the best performing horses here and overseas to contest the 2040 metre event on broadly equal terms. Seven of Saturday’s field will carry 58kg, four will carry 56.5kg, one will carry 55.5kg, while Miss Finland (part owned by Alan Belford Jones) gets into the field with the featherweight of just 46kg.
As a result of the weight for age conditions, the Cox Plate attracts the very best horses – because the conditions ensure that the true champions are not burdened with crushing weights as they can be in major handicap events.
The case for the Cox Plate is also strengthened when you browse through the winners since the race was introduced in 1922. Phar Lap, who has made the headlines again this year, won it in 1930 and 1931. His 1931 win was his second last in Australia – starting at the prohibitive odds of 1/14.
Since then winners have included the great Makybe Diva last year, and true champions such Northerly, Sunline, Might and Power, Octagonal, Super Impose, Kingston Town, Gunsynd and Tulloch.
And who knows, Saturday might produce another champion of the turf. The logical contender is the grey, Racing to Win, the most impressive winner of the AJC Epsom a few weeks ago.
The other “attraction” of the Cox Plate is that it is run over 2040 metres around the tight Moonee Valley circuit. Luck in running is absolutely critical. Many a “certainty” has gone down in the Cox Plate when luck ran out!
But the race has an uncanny ability to generally be won by true champions of the turf. And, apart from the $3.1 million prize money, the fact it is the race of champions makes it a favourite with the true racing enthusiast.
The Melbourne Cup is of course the best known and most popular race. But Saturday’s Cox Plate is, in the view of many, myself included, our premier racing event.