Winx Stakes quinella Verry Elleegant and Mo'unga are among first acceptances

79 first acceptances confirmed for the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate

The 2021 Spring Racing Carnival’s feature races are starting to take shape after first acceptances for the $5 million Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup (2400m), $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) and $8 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) all closed at 12 noon (AET) today (Tuesday, 7 September). 

79 gallopers are still in the hunt to win the 101st edition of the Cox Plate, Australasia’s weight-for-age championship at The Valley on Saturday, 23 October.

The list of acceptors is headlined by the three defending champions, with Chris Waller’s reigning Caulfield Cup heroine Verry Elleegant nominated for all three races; Sir Dragonet continuing his pursuit of a title defence in the Cox Plate; and Twilight Payment, who delivered a second Melbourne Cup victory for his Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien last year, a first acceptor for the 2021 edition. 

But the trio face a serious battle in their bid to go back-to-back from a host of top-class challengers. For Sir Dragonet, that includes Annabel Neasham’s emerging star Zaaki, who firmed as Cox Plate favourite after his arrogant return in last Saturday’s Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m). 

Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) – The Valley, 23 October

As well as dominant local hopes Zaaki and Verry Elleegant, this year’s Cox Plate field could also feature a newcomer to the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable in the form of Gold Trip, who is set to arrive in Australia at month’s end. 

The northern hemisphere four-year-old, who has been purchased by Australian interests, was fourth in last year’s Arc De Triomphe in France. His arrival increases the chances of Maher and Eustace retaining the title they won in such style last year courtesy of Sir Dragonet, one of three first acceptors from Victoria’s leading stable.

State of Rest was one of three late entries for the Cox Plate and the last start Group 1 Saratoga Derby winner in the USA is the sole internationally trained first acceptor for Joseph O’Brien. He and import Fourhometwo, now a stablemate of Zaaki, are the two northern hemisphere three-year-olds among the first acceptors.

Mighty New Zealand mare Probabeel returned to action in Australia with a hard-fought Group 3 win at Caulfield last month and her trainer Jamie Richards has kept the five-year-old in contention for consecutive appearances in the Cox Plate, along with stablemate Amarelinha.  

Probabeel is one of 32 Group 1 winners among the Cox Plate first acceptors, whilst 17 southern hemisphere three-year-olds remain in contention to claim the crown of Australia’s weight-for-age star. They include exciting Queensland galloper Alpine Edge, along with Group 1-winning juveniles Anamoe, Artorious and Converge. 

Crack Kiwi contender Elephant, whose run of five straight victories was narrowly halted by Superstorm at The Valley last Saturday, remains in the acceptance list of 79 alongside Superstorm, Inspirational Girl, Behemoth and boom four-year-old Ayrton. 

The notable withdrawals today were Alligator Blood and the Group 1-winning mares Avantage and Mystic Journey.

Second acceptances for the Cox Plate will be taken at 12 noon (AET) on Tuesday, 21 September.