The highest-rated horse in Europe could be set for a mouth-watering clash with the world’s best galloper after both Poet’s Word and Winx were nominated for the 98th edition of the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley on Saturday, 27 October.
Sir Michael Stoute’s stable star Poet’s Word, who recently added the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes to his Royal Ascot victory, and Winx, who is chasing an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate victory, were the two standout names of the 135 nominees taken today.
In a year in which the Spring Racing Carnival celebrates 25 years of international competition, it is fitting that no fewer than 26 overseas raiders have nominated for one of the carnival’s showpiece events – an increase of 11 on last year’s figure.
Multiple Group 1 winner Saxon Warrior is one of a record 14 nominees trained by legendary Irish horseman Aidan O’Brien, who has also entered a further five horses which have won at the highest level: Lancaster Bomber, Deauville, Hydrangea, Rhododendron and Happily.
Godolphin’s multiple Group 1-winner Benbatl, trained in the UAE by Saeed bin Suroor, has accepted the Moonee Valley Racing Club’s (MVRC) invitation to contest their feature race.
Other notable international nominees include Japanese star Neorealism, a winner of eight races from 21 starts including six at Stakes level; high-class Godolphin stablemates Blair House, Emotionless and Folkswood, who finished third behind Winx in last year’s Cox Plate; and Irish Derby winner Latrobe, owned by Lloyd Williams and trained by Joseph O’Brien, the same connections who took out last year’s Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) with Rekindling.
Billed as the weight-for-age championship of Australasia, the Cox Plate is the ultimate test of speed and stamina and will this year offer record prizemoney of $5 million – up from $3 million last year.
First run in 1922, the Cox Plate has been won by several Hall of Fame inductees including Sunline, Northerly, Phar Lap, Rising Fast and most recently Winx, who matched Kingston Town’s hat-trick of victories with her thrilling defeat of Humidor.
Last year’s runner-up will be aiming to go one better in 2018 after he was amongst the 14 horses nominated by Victoria’s leading trainer, Darren Weir, along with Japanese imports Tosen Basil, Admire Robson, Danon Liberty and Langley.
Winx’s part-owner, Peter Tighe, brought her three Cox Plates (2015-17) to this afternoon’s release of nominations, which also featured the entries for both the $2 million Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and $500,000 Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m), to be held at Caulfield on the opening day of the 2018 Stella Artois Caulfield Cup Carnival on Saturday, 13 October.
Winx’s fellow Group 1 winners and nominees Grunt, Mighty Boss, Seabrook (all trained by Mick Price), Boom Time, Catchy (both Lindsay Park), Kementari (James Cummings), Ace High (David Payne), Bonneval (Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman), Happy Clapper (Patrick Webster) and last-start Group 2 Missile Stakes winner Pierata (Gregory Hickman) could all be out to dethrone the mighty mare, who moved a step closer to her racetrack return after successfully coming through a barrier trial at Rosehill this morning.
Winx’s trainer Chris Waller is well represented, nominating 15 horses including Group 1-winning mares Egg Tart and Youngstar, Japanese import Satono Rasen, cult hero Tom Melbourne and the precociously talented colt Zousain.
A total of 12 northern hemisphere three-year-olds and 25 Australian three-year-olds have been entered for the Cox Plate.
Meanwhile, a large number of highly progressive horses have also been entered for both the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas and Thousand Guineas, which have attracted 267 and 262 nominations respectively.
Racing Victoria (RV) Executive General Manager – Racing, Greg Carpenter, said: “The countdown to this year’s Spring Racing Carnival, which will offer record prizemoney and bonuses in excess of $84 million, has officially begun with today’s release of these feature race nominations.
“This year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate is shaping as a moment in history not to be missed, with several elite horses from both home and abroad nominated alongside Winx, the undisputed champion who will be chasing a record fourth consecutive win.
“It’s testimony to the stature of this race that we’ve received such strong international nominations from France, Japan, England and Ireland, including a record 14 entries from Aidan O’Brien, of which six are Group 1 winners.
“And with some rising stars nominated for both the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas and Schweppes Thousand Guineas, which headline day one of the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup Carnival, the scene is already set for another world-class event.”
MVRC Chief Executive, Michael Browell, said: “The MVRC is delighted to see the quality of nominations from around the globe to contest the first $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate, taking Australasia’s weight-for-age classic to the world.
“The 98th edition of the Cox Plate promises to be one of the richest chapters in our club’s history, with Winx aiming for an unprecedented fourth straight win.
“It’s great to see such a strong list of international runners nominated for the race, which illustrates the prestige the Cox Plate now carries on the world stage.”
As well as the Cox Plate, Chris Waller also knows what it takes to win the Caulfield Guineas having done so with Press Statement. He will look to plot a similar path to his 2015 winner Press Statement with his promising colt The Autumn Sun, who will aim to back up his Brisbane Group 1 winter win in the J.J. Atkins Stakes with Guineas glory.
Colin Little’s Vassilator was in impressive form over the winter months, winning back-to-back races at Flemington; unbeaten colt Rock Hard will be out to emulate the deeds of his sire, All Too Hard, in capturing Guineas glory; and VRC Sires winner Not A Single Cent appears to be another genuine Guineas contender for the new training partnership of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
There also appears to be good depth to the ranks of three-year-old fillies, with the likes of unbeaten starlets Anjana (Darren Weir) and Multaja (James Cummings) bidding to make the step up from off-season racing to elite company in spring; and several of last year’s high profile juveniles, the dual-nominated Seabrook (one of 15 fillies set to take on the boys in the Caulfield Guineas), the nation’s most talented maiden Oohood and Golden Slipper winner Estijaab all nominated for the Thousand Guineas.
The Lindsay Park training team of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig have some notable nominations across both races, headed by Gibson Carmichael Stakes winner Good ‘n’ Fast in the Caulfield Guineas and, in the Thousand Guineas, Fundamentalist, who was Group 1 placed in the J. J. Atkins.
Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) Executive Director Racing and Membership, Jake Norton, said: “We are proud of Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas Day and its status as one of the nation’s premier race days, encompassing four Group 1 races headlined by the stallion-making $2 million Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas and $500,000 Schweppes Thousand Guineas.
“Once again, we are excited to see a gifted crop of spring three-year-olds aiming at our Guineas races, where a new pair of racing stars will be unearthed.
“Caulfield Guineas Day is also a truly global event, which is something that few Australian racing meetings can boast. Eight northern hemisphere-trained runners contested races on the card last year, which we are hopeful we can build on this year with strong long-range interest from abroad.”
Click here to view Ladbrokes Cox Plate nominations
Click here to view Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas nominations
Click here to view Schweppes Thousand Guineas nominations