Ladbrokes Feehan Stakes winner Homesman is bound for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate
By Ben Caluzzi
With only 42 days to go, the countdown to the 2019 Ladbrokes Cox Plate is well underway with first acceptances released on Tuesday 10 September. A star-studded pool of 102 horses remain in the hunt for the Weight-For-Age Championship of Australasia, and while the final field is still far from settled, the picture is becoming clearer by the day.
The current list of 102 horses boasts 36 individual group 1 winners, with 17 accepting from overseas - nine more than in 2018. With a prizemoney total of $5M and a host of international race bonuses, the incentive for overseas raiders has never been stronger. Since Adelaide became the first ever international winner in 2014, our legendary mare Winx has made the race her own from 2015 to 2018. With the absence of Winx for the first time in four years, a gaping hole has been left for a new champion to fill. Will Australia retain the mantle and keep the Ladbrokes Cox Plate at home, or will the international form prove superior?
Tasmania’s Mystic Journey heads the current Ladbrokes Cox Plate market and will run as a hot favourite in Saturday’s G1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington over 1600m. After winning the G1 Australian Guineas and the All-Star Mile earlier in the year, the Adam Trinder trained mare also qualifies for the $1million Ladbrokes Cox Plate bonus if she is victorious in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate. A win on Saturday would increase her winning streak to eight, an outstanding accolade for any horse, let alone one that only cost $11,000.
Avilius and Homesman are the second and third respective Australian seeds in the betting, but unlike Mystic Journey, they are both proven over the W.S. Cox Plate distance. Avilius, trained by James Cummings under the all-powerful Godolphin operation, has run twice so far this prep and has performed well without winning. He will only get better as he gets to 1800m of the Underwood and beyond. After running 4tth in last year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate, he will no doubt be looking to go a few better this year.
Winning the G2 Feehan Stakes last week at The Valley awarded Homesman automatic entry into the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, but with a rating of 112 the Caulfield Cup runner-up was a likely starter. Saturday’s win was redemption for losing the same race by a nose to Magic Consol in 2018. The two and a half-length win was full of authority and it should send an ominous warning to his rivals. The W.S. Cox Plate remains the only race of the big three that Lloyd Williams hasn’t been able to claim yet and Homesman may just be his best Australian trained hope.
Another locally trained chance of the powerful Williams’ barn is Yucatan. His win in the G2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield last spring was one of the most dominant staying victories you are likely to see. That performance saw him start favourite in the Melbourne Cup, where he finished 11th. Back to 2040m in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate might suit him far better. After targeting the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups last spring with the pair, Lloyd may be focusing them both solely on the Ladbrokes Cox Plate this year.
Trained by Yoshito Yahagi, Lys Gracieux is one of the most exciting acceptances. Partnered by gun Aussie hoop Damian Lane, she was able to win one of Japan’s most prestigious races- the G1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) by three lengths. When the $2M Ladbrokes Cox Plate International Series bonus was announced in early June, the Takarazuka Kinen was the first race that was included on the list. Lys Gracieux will be racing for an incredible $5M on October 26 at The Valley, $3M for first prize and an added $2M for the bonus.
Kluger, trained by Tomokazu Takano, is the other Japanese horse upon acceptances that will be well fancied by many. He was last seen in Australia pushing Winx to 1.5L in her swansong race, the G1 Queen Elizabeth (2000m) in April. He was a 50-1 chance there, but will start much shorter in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Danceteria became the first European Group 1 winner for the late Redoute’s Choice after winning the G1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis - Bayerisches Zuchtrennen (2000m) in Munich, Germany. Trained by David Menuiser, the Australian Bloodstock owned gelding has already made a big impression on our shores and he hasn’t even arrived yet. That Group 1 victory followed a slashing fourth behind Enable in England.
2014 W.S. Cox Plate winning trainer Aidan O’Brien will be looking to win the race again and he has a strong hand in acceptances this year with Latrobe, Anthony Van Dyck and Circus Maximus all possible starters. Latrobe is no stranger to Australian racing. He ran second in the G1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last spring, only beaten 0.2L by Trap For Fools (Jarrod McLean), who has also accepted for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate. Anthony Van Dyk won the Epsom Derby (2,420m), while Circus Maximus is a dual Group 1 winner- winning the G1 Palace Stakes (1600m) and the G1 Prix Du Moulin De Longchamp (1600m.) Previously trained by O’Brien, Rostropovich will now be running for Lindsay Park. He ran fifth in last year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate before another fifth in the Melbourne Cup.
Te Akau Racing pair Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark will be representing New Zealand if they are to take place in the race. Melody Belle is a seven-time Group 1 winner in New Zealand, a national record and one that signifies her brilliance in the past few seasons, while Te Akau Shark is a lightly raced five-year-old that has had the boom placed on him for months now. An encouraging second last week at Randwick has seen him firm into $5 favourite for the Epsom.
Upon the other local chances, Hartnell and Humidor have proven trusty yardsticks over the last few Australian springs and haven’t showed many signs of slowing down. As a nine-year-old, Hartnell continues to defy his age by running well in not only the Weight-For-Age Group 1’s, but also the handicaps. He ran second to Winx in the 2016 Ladbrokes Cox Plate and will be happy to see the back of her now. The same can be said about Humidor, who got within half a length of Winx in the 2017 Ladbrokes Cox Plate, before running third to her in the 2018 edition.
Kings Will Dream, Kenedna, Gailo Chop, Scales of Justice, Verry Elleegant and Harlem were other notable acceptors, while talented three-year-old’s Castelvecchio, Prince Fawaz, Yes Yes Yes and Dalasan will all be making their bids to get into the race in the coming weeks.
Second acceptances for the Ladbrokes Cox Plate will be taken at 12pm (AEST) on Tuesday 24 September.
Click here to view full list of 2019 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival First Acceptances