Winx's third W.S. Cox Plate win a red letter day for MVRC
A Cox Plate Carnival record of 44,422 patrons walked through the turnstiles across the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival and each and every one of them would have had a story to tell.
A sell-out crowd of 32,617 enjoyed glorious weather on Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day to watch wonder horse Winx win a record equalling third W.S. Cox Plate at The Valley and it was a pinch yourself moment.
The crowd was around 6,500 up on last year’s mark and was the biggest Cox Plate Day attendance since 34,072 people watched Maldivian win the 2008 edition of the race.
The champion mare broke her own track record and in the process equalled Kingston’s Town record of three W.S. Cox Plate wins and stamped herself as an immortal of the track.
The build-up, the anticipation, the excitement – it was all there in the lead-up to the 97th running of the race and it delivered a script no one saw coming.
Many pundits thought Winx would win running away, with time for jockey Hugh Bowman to soak up the adulation of the crowd before reaching the finishing post. But somebody forget to tell Darren Weir’s Humidor and hearts were in mouths with 100 metres to go.
Despite the best efforts of jockey Blake Shinn, who rode a staggering four winners on the card, Winx was never headed and Hugh Bowman punched the air to the roars of the crowd. Blue streamers cascaded from the grandstand façade and The Script’s ‘Hall of Fame’ played loudly across the course.
The reception the wonder mare received from The Valley’s sold-out crowd when returning back up the home straight is something that many will remember for a lifetime. Bowman then threw his skull cap into the crowd to one unsuspecting but extremely lucky punter, providing another moment to savour.
The result topped off one of the biggest days the Club has ever witnessed, with a sea of royal blue and white mixed into the crowd with the Ladbrokes red. Daryl Braithwaite was again on hand to sing his anthemic ‘The Horses’, drowned out often by his adoring fans who can’t seem to get enough of the song.
“It was day that will live long in the memories of those who witnessed it,” said Michael Browell, CEO of the Moonee Valley Racing Club.
“The build-up to the event was unprecedented and nothing like I have seen in my time at the Club.
“For it to deliver on the day and then some, in front of a sold-out crowd, it was a dream result.
“Everyone at the MVRC is so proud of what Winx, Chris Waller and Hugh Bowman have achieved over the past three years in our great race.”
The Winx effect also took hold of the Club’s commercial results, with a huge increase of 29% on corporate, marquee and enclosure bookings for Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day, to the point where it sold out on the Tuesday of Cox Plate week. The Club also saw a massive 61% increase on the same bookings (corporate, marquee and enclosures) for Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes Night. The dining result of +2% on Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day is only minimal due to the event dining footprint being near capacity most years.
Wagering results understandably were down over the Carnival with $136.8M (-8.5%) wagered over the two days, with $99.2M (-11.2%) on Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day and $37.6M (-0.6%) on Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes Night recorded. Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes Night was the second highest gross turnover in Australian Night Racing History, falling just behind last year’s edition, which would have been surpassed had it not been for the late scratching of cult-figure Chautauqua at the barriers. A slight reduction in starters (99 to 90) and the impact of $1.15 favourite Winx in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate betting market were the main reasons for the decline this year.
While Saturday was a day to remember, Friday night’s Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes meeting had just as much excitement and drama.
A beautiful Melbourne spring evening saw the crowds flock to The Valley, with a record for the meeting of 11,805 people turning up to kick-off the two-day Carnival.
Craig Williams had a night to remember riding a treble and was on the highly-fancied Vega Magic in the Group 1 feature. High drama ensued before the jump of the race when 2015 winner and cult-favourite Chautauqua and the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott trained English were vetted. Unfortunately, it was ‘The Thunder from Down Under’ who was scratched to the groans of the crowd.
The drama didn’t end there. The Tony McEvoy trained Hey Doc kicked clear on the home turn to take out the race, but not without a protest from the second placed In Her Time after jockey Corey Brown claimed interference at the 1000 metre mark.
It was a huge training performance by McEvoy. Hey Doc was back in distance after a disappointing performance in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes and had galloped very well at the Breakfast with the Best on Tuesday morning. Whispers has swept the course about how well the 4YO gelding was travelling and they proved to be right.
The band ARC played out the night to a full Valley Beer Garden and many punters went home happy after a thrilling night of racing and entertainment.
Chief Executive Michael Browell said, “Our sixth year of the two-day Carnival has been our biggest and best yet and shows us that we have got the right mix of racing and entertainment, night and day.
“There is no doubting that the champion mare has brought a huge windfall for the Club and it will be the benchmark for many years to come.
“These events don’t just happen without the hard work of a lot of people and it was fantastic to see the MVRC team pull it off.
“Now all we need to work on is getting her back for a fourth Cox Plate”.