The 101st running of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) looks set to be dominated by some of the biggest names from Australia and New Zealand this year. With nominations closed today, 153 horses have declared their ambitions to compete in the Weight-For-Age Championship of Australasia.

The list of 153 entries for the $5 million showpiece at The Valley on Saturday 23 October 2021 includes 37 individual Group 1 winners, 43 three-year-olds, four international runners and 64 trainers – all vying to add their name to this year’s honour roll following 100 editions of ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made’.

Headlining the nomination list, and current Cox Plate favourite in Ladbrokes markets, is Zaaki. Zaaki took all before him over the Brisbane Winter Carnival, winning the Group 1 Doomben Cup as well as the Group 2 Q22 and Group 2 Hollindale Stakes. Trainer Annabel Neasham will be out to create history in the early stages of her training career by becoming just the second female trainer to win the W.S. Cox Plate after, New Zealand’s Moira Murdoch, won the race with Solvit in 1994. Zaaki is seeking to follow in the footsteps of Might and Power to become only the second horse ever to win the Doomben Cup - Cox Plate double.

But he will face plenty of strong competition, with 8-time Group 1 winner Verry Elleegant headlining the 14 Chris Waller nominated runners, the most nominations by any trainer. The six-year-old mare is looking to add the Ladbrokes Cox Plate to her Caulfield Cup win from last year. The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable also has a typically strong hand with five nominations. Their reigning champion Sir Dragonet is looking to achieve the rare feat of back-to-back W.S. Cox Plate wins and to join legends such as Sunline, Northerly, Phar Lap, Tobin Bronze and So You Think among others.

Other big-name nominations include three-time Group 1 winner Probabeel, 2020 Blue Diamond winner Artorius,dominant Godolphin three-year-old Anamoe, three-time Group 1-star Tofane, and Group 1 winning four-year-old Mo’unga to name just a few.

Two of the more interesting international nominations are Maximal (John O’Shea) and Gold Trip (Ciaron Maher and David Eustace). Maximal, a three-year-old colt by Galileo, has strong form in Britain having finished fourth in the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, before finishing second to emerging star Baaeed at his latest run at Newmarket. Gold Trip is a European four-year-old who has raced 10 times, five at Group 1 level, with his record featuring a fourth in last year’s Group 1 Arc behind Sottsass, a second in the Prix Ganay behind Mare Australis and third behind Broome in the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud.

The Club has secured four internationally trained nominations for this year’s race in My Oberon (William Haggas), Lone Eagle (Martyn Meade), Twilight Payment and Master Of Reality (both Joseph O’Brien). The travel limitations caused by the COVID pandemic on Japanese and European runners and the recommendations from the International Injury Review have proven a deterrent for a number of European trainers.

My Oberon is from the powerful William Haggas stable and he looks a genuine 2000 metre horse. He has been running in the top European races of late and hasn’t been far off in Group 1 races against the likes of Skalleti, Love, Audarya and last year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate runner-up Armory.

Lone Eagle is a European three-year-old and he too has been up against some of the world’s best in recent runs. He was narrowly edged out in the Group 1 Irish Derby last month by Hurricane Lane, who subsequently went on to do a demolition job in the Group 1 Grand Prix De Paris, before encountering Adayar, Mishriff and Love in a world-class King George Stakes.

Joseph O’Brien’s 2020 Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment and 2019 Melbourne Cup 4th placegetter Master Of Reality are no strangers to Australian soil and are also welcome additions to today’s nominations. The famous navy blue and white silks have become synonymous with success in the Melbourne Cup, but they are yet to taste victory in the W.S. Cox Plate after some close finishes.    

The MVRC attracted 28 international nominations in 2020, 27 in 2019 and 26 in 2018, with Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien dominating the nomination numbers with 13 in 2020.

Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC), Chief Executive, Michael Browell, said:

“The MVRC is excited to begin the journey towards the 101st running of the W.S. Cox Plate – ‘The Race Where Legends Are Made’. Last year, we celebrated Cox Plate 100, and welcomed Sir Dragonet to the honour roll of our great race.

“The 153 horses nominated for the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate will now embark on their Spring Carnival campaigns with the hope that they will be at The Valley on Saturday 23 October.  

“Australasia’s best middle-distance weight-for-age horses feature in the nominations for the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate, including Zaaki, Verry Elleegant and last year’s champion in Sir Dragonet.  It is pleasing to also see four quality internationals nominated, again highlighting the international reputation that the Cox Plate has developed. We thank trainers Martyn Meade, William Haggas and Joseph O’Brien for putting their horses forward and in doing so keeping their dream alive of winning the Cox Plate.

“We look forward to an exciting Spring Racing Carnival and watching each of these nominated horses progress towards the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate.”

The Ladbrokes Cox Plate Boost Series has been put on hold in 2021 due to the financial impact of COVID.   

The Group 2 $500,000 Feehan Stakes (1600m) at The Valley on 4 Septemberis the only race that carries a ballot exemption into the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate thus providing an enticing ‘golden ticket’ for today’s nominees.