Mystic Journey

Fields streamlined for four feature Spring Racing Carnival contests

A total of 68 horses remain in contention to become Australasia’s weight-for-age champion whilst 74 gallopers are still vying to win the world’s richest turf handicap over 2400m, after second acceptances for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) and first acceptances for the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) were both taken at 12 noon today (24 September).

As well as those two Group 1 contests, worth a combined $10 million, second acceptances were also taken today for the $2 million Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and the $1 million Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m), which will headline the opening day of the Caulfield Cup Carnival on Saturday, 12 October. Both races have attracted 54 second acceptors each.

Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) – The Valley, 26 October

In the absence of the all-conquering Winx, second acceptances for the 99th edition of the Cox Plate have risen by 27 on last year, with ten internationally-trained horses amongst that number – which is double the 2018 tally.

Adam Trinder’s mighty mare Mystic Journey remains the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Winx as the queen of the Cox Plate, but several rivals – including Avilius (trained by James Cummings) and Melody Belle (Jamie Richards) – announced themselves as genuine contenders with impressive performances over the weekend.

Remarkably, Melody Belle claimed her eighth Group 1 win on Saturday and, together with her stablemate Te Akau Shark, the five-year-old Kiwi mare looks well equipped to pose a serious threat to the locals. On the same day, Avilius bounced back to form with a dominant win in the Group 1 Colgate Optic White Stakes (1600m).

The overseas acceptors include high-class Japanese pair Lys Gracieux (Yoshito Yahagi) and Kluger (Tomokazu Takano) plus the Australian Bloodstock-owned Group 1 winner Danceteria (David Menuisier), who have all accepted international invitations from the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) to compete in this year’s renewal of the Cox Plate.

Godolphin UK trainer Saeed bin Suroor has kept Group 1 winner Dream Castle in the entry list whilst world-renowned horseman Aidan O’Brien, who won the Cox Plate with Adelaide in 2014, has retained three horses. They are Hunting Horn, Magic Wand and Mohawk, meaning both English Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck and dual Group 1 winner Circus Maximus have dropped out at the second acceptance stage.

O’Brien’s son Joseph has accepted with three horses for leviathan owner Lloyd Williams – Latrobe, Master of Reality and Twilight Payment – with the stable now preparing their stablemate Buckhurst for other target races. Williams also has Homesman, prepared locally by Liam Howley, amongst the acceptors and the six-year-old – who currently occupies the fourth line of betting – is guaranteed a start in the Cox Plate after his win in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m).

Twelve high-class three-year-olds also stand their ground in the Cox Plate including the James Cummings-trained Flit, the only filly amongst the 12. However, as expected Scales of Justice (spelling), Django Freeman (injured) and Arcadia Queen have all been withdrawn from the entry list.

Third acceptances for the Cox Plate will be taken at 12 noon (AEST) on Tuesday 8 October.


Stella Artois Caulfield Cup – Caulfield, 19 October 2019

A total of 74 stayers now remain in contention to succeed last year’s Caulfield Cup winner, Best Solution.

They include Brimham Rocks (trained by Chris Waller), who has joined Self Sense (David Brideoake) as a ballot-exempt entry for the $5 million feature after he earned a golden ticket courtesy of his victory in last Saturday’s MRC Foundation Cup (2000m).

Brimham Rocks’ stablemate and fellow European import Finche was an eye-catching winner of the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m), and Waller will be hoping that one of them can deliver his first win in the Caulfield Cup.

James Cummings is yet to decide which path to take with Avilius, and so the three-time Group 1 winner retains his place in the Caulfield Cup entries alongside his stablemate and fellow topweight Hartnell.

Melbourne Cup placegetter Prince of Arran, trained by Englishman Charlie Fellowes, is set to touch down in Melbourne this Friday night ahead of his possible tilt at the 142nd Caulfield Cup. He is one of ten international-trained acceptors still in the hunt to claim one of Australia’s marquee races.

The Japanese duo of Mer De Glace (Hisashi Shimizu) and Suzuka Devious (Mitsuru Hashida), the latter of whom arrives in Melbourne this afternoon, stand their place amongst the entries; whilst Red Galileo – who will be on the same Friday night flight as Prince of Arran – remains Saeed bin Suroor’s sole hope of retaining his crown.

Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer is currently the third favourite for the Caulfield Cup, and he will arrive in Melbourne this Saturday (28 September) alongside several European horses including Mirage Dancer (Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young) and Constantinople (Lindsay Park), who are both on one-way tickets.

If he lines up for David Hayes, his son Ben and nephew Tom Dabernig at Caulfield on 19 October, Constantinople would make history as the first northern hemisphere three-year-old to compete in the race.

Like Constantinople, Danceteria had been supplemented for the race but has now been withdrawn and will focus instead on the Cox Plate.

Second acceptances for the Caulfield Cup will be taken at 12 noon (AEST) on Tuesday 8 October.


Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas – Caulfield, 12 October 2019

A total of 54 horses – up from 50 in 2018 – remain in the hunt to win Australia’s most prestigious three-year-old mile race following the closure of second acceptances today.

Group 1-winning juveniles Castelvecchio (Richard Litt), Prince Fawaz (Anthony Cummings) and Yourdeel (David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig) have all stood their ground; but Anthony Freedman has opted against setting his Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) heroine Lyre for the Caulfield Guineas, instead choosing to focus on the equivalent race for fillies.

The same applies to Chris Waller’s highly-progressive filly Funstar, who lowered the colours of boom horse Libertini in Saturday’s Group 2 Darley Tea Rose Stakes (1400m).

The brilliant Bivouac (James Cummings) enhanced his claims as a leading Caulfield Guineas contender with a dominant win in the Group 2 Run To The Rose (1200m) on 14 September; whilst Danny O’Brien’s improving Skiddaw also leapt into calculations with a notable win at Caulfield last Saturday.

Final acceptances for the Caulfield Guineas will be taken at 9am (AEST) on Tuesday, 8 October.


Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m) – Caulfield, 12 October 2019

The momentum continues to build towards the country’s most lucrative three-year-old fillies’ mile race, with 54 second stage acceptors. 

Godolphin has retained a stellar hand in the Thousand Guineas with Lyre (trained by Anthony Freedman), Tenley, Flit and La Tene (all James Cummings), but Kiamichi and Exhilirates are both absentees from the list.

Probabeel, trained in New Zealand by Jamie Richards, entered calculations with a flashing run behind fellow entrant Funstar at Royal Randwick on Saturday; whilst other notable entrants include another Kiwi-bred filly, Miami Bound, who has won her last two starts for trainer Danny O’Brien.

Final acceptances for the Thousand Guineas will be taken at 9am (AEST) on Tuesday, 8 October.