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The Australian horse racing season is about to get into full swing and, while the Melbourne Cup is the race that stops a nation and attracts international attention, the event that is the southern hemisphere’s very best is the WS Cox Plate.
Australians are rightly proud of their horse racing and its place within their society but their thoroughbred stocks are not as patch on those of their global rivals. Australian horse racing is all about speed – most races take place over five, six or seven furlongs – because the program is skewed towards sprint races, particularly for two-year-olds. That is great for Australian races such as the Golden Slipper, which is the world’s richest juvenile event, but contests over more than one mile are bereft of domestic contenders.
International raiders have been winning the Melbourne Cup ever since Ireland’s Vintage Crop blazed a trail in 1993 and, given the huge riches on offer, now it is turn of the WS Cox Plate to become a benefit for overseas gallopers.
Do not be misled by his name – 2014 WS Cox Plate winner Adelaide did not enter Australia until he entered the strict quarantine regime ahead of his run in the race over 2,040 metres at Moonee Valley in Melbourne. Adelaide exited the barriers as the WS Cox Plate third favourite and he looked long odds in the run because he was posted wide throughout the race. However, Ryan Moore knew what he was doing aboard Adelaide and the Aidan O’Brien-trained son of Galileo made steady progress in spite of his wide run and he ended up winning the WS Cox Plate by a short neck from Fawkner.
The word in Australian horse racing circles is that O’Brien is plotting another WS Cox Plate raid. Highland Reel is the O’Brien charge in question and Bet365 is quoting him at odds of 11/1 12.00 +1100 11.00 11.00 -0.09 to win the WS Cox Plate on Saturday 24 October. One thinks that Highland Reel is worth supporting ante post.
Highland Reel was superb in winning the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park last month in an almost identical time to the one that Adelaide recorded in taking out last year’s edition. Various ratings bodies, including British betting bible Racing Post, think that Highland Reel is superior to Adelaide and it is not as though the Australian brigade in the WS Cox Plate entry list is all that impressive.
Kermadec is the shortest priced Australian runner in the WS Cox Plate market and one agrees that, over 2,040m, he is the most appealing of the domestic gallopers. But Kermadec is developing a reputation as a big-race choker, winning only three of his 10 starts, finding trouble more often than not – Moonee Valley is Australia’s trickiest track and one is confident that he will experience traffic problems there.
One looks down the WS Cox Plate betting list and cannot get excited about anyone except Highland Reel. Adelaide won in 2014 despite going via the car park and his subsequent runs in Australia have not been fantastic. One thinks that the WS Cox Plate lacks depth and that any decent international raider would be a worthy favourite. Highland Reel is a decent international raider and his trainer knows what it takes to win the most prestigious race in Australia.
It makes sense that Highland Reel has a crack at the WS Cox Plate. Highland Reel is a son of Australasian Oaks bronze medallist Hveger so he would be of considerable interest to Australian breeders if he added a Australian Group One race to his resume. Winning the WS Cox Plate would do just that.
Highland Reel to win WS Cox Plate
24th October 08:40 GMT
Odds: 11/1 12.00 +1100 11.00 11.00 -0.09