Thursday, October 24, 2013
Australian and New Zealand breeders have supplied six of the 14 runners in Saturday's $3 million Cox Plate G1.
Two of them are by Arrowfield stallions and one will join the Arrowfield roster at the end of his career. They bring three quite different stories to the race where legends are made.
The future Arrowfield resident is, of course, It's A Dundeel, favourite for the race.
It's A Dundeel has much in his favour: an imposing record of Group 1 Guineas, Derby and weight-for-age success from 1600 to 2400 metres, blink-of-an-eye acceleration, a splendid competitive temperament, a master trainer and the genetic backing of High Chaparral & Zabeel. The two champion sires have appeared individually in the pedigrees of the last five Cox Plate winners: Maldivian (2008) So You Think (2009 & 2010), Pinker Pinker (2011) & Ocean Park (2012).
More telling is the fact that, while only five horses have won the Australian Derby at three and returned the following spring to claim the Cox Plate at four, all five would appear on most lists of the best thoroughbreds ever to race in Australia: Phar Lap (1930), Dulcify (1979), Kingston Town (1980), Strawberry Road (1983) and Bonecrusher (1986). It’s A Dundeel’s Derby win was reminiscent of the emphatic victories of Phar Lap, Kingston Town and Strawberry Road.
Interestingly, Strawberry Road is the only entire in the group. He proved a resounding success at stud in the US where he sired three Breeders' Cup winners in Fraise, Ajina and Escena among 37 Stakeswinners from just 370 foals in nine crops. He also excelled as a broodmare sire: his daughters produced no fewer than 68 Stakeswinners, including Arrowfield's young sire All American.
It's A Dundeel will jump from barrier 12 which has not yet supplied a Cox Plate winner, although wide barriers don't make success impossible. One suspects Phar Lap, Kingston Town, Dulcify, Bonecrusher or Strawberry Road would have overcome barrier 12 for victory if required.
The two Arrowfield-sired Cox Plate runners will start at considerably longer odds than It's A Dundeel, yet both their camps have good reasons for the confidence they express in their chances.
Trainer Danny O'Brien reports that 3YO colt Shamus Award (by Snitzel), who made the field only after Atlantic Jewel's scratching, is "super" after his excellent third in the Caulfield Guineas G1 - his seventh black type placing in a career that doesn't yet include a win.
"We always intended to have him ready for this weekend and our preference was always the Cox Plate.
"He gives us every indication that he will be a very good racehorse when he gets to 2000 metres. He's very relaxed, really genuine and competes every time."
Shamus Award is Snitzel's first Cox Plate starter and the first maiden to line up in the race since Oxberry Way, unplaced in 1984. Four 3YOs have won the Cox Plate in the past thirty years: Red Anchor (1984), Octagonal (1995), Savabeel (2004) and So You Think (2009). In the past five years four 3YOs have filled placings: All Too Hard & Pierro (2012), Manhattan Rain (2009) and Samantha Miss (2008).
Jonathan Munz, owner-breeder of Rekindled Interest (by Redoute's Choice) succinctly reviews the 6YO gelding's preparation for his third Cox Plate appearance.
"He was injured in the 2012 Cox Plate, and had surgery after that. He was fabulous first-up, running second at Moonee Valley in a 1200-metre Listed Race carrying 61 kg in what ended up as a hot form race.
Rekindled Interest has the best form on the track of any 2013 Cox Plate starter, as Jonanthan Munz confirms. "He flies at Moonee Valley where he won the Vase over 2040 metres as a 3YO, and he's been trained to peak on Cox Plate Day."