Inspirational Girl is one of two Bob Peters runners targeting the Ladbrokes Cox Plate
By Ben Caluzzi
79 dreams remain alive for ‘The Race Where Legends are Made,’ as first acceptances for the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate closed on Tuesday at 12 noon.
After receiving 156 nominations, the pool of horses has now been halved, and the road to the Ladbrokes Cox Plate will become clearer by the day as we edge closer to October 23.
Of the 79 acceptors, we have 32 individual Group 1 winners, 17 three-year-olds, five past Cox Plate contestants, nine previous Valley winners, 40 trainers and one internationally trained runner.
The two heavyweights in current markets, Zaaki and Verry Elleegant, headline first acceptances, and they have both returned in fine fettle over the last fortnight. Verry Elleegant was brave running second in the Group 1 Winx Stakes, a race she won last year, while Zaaki won easily last weekend in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes.
It is possible the two star performers will lock horns for the first time in next week’s Group 1 George Main Stakes, but if trainer Annabel Neasham is able to get her staff to Melbourne, then Zaaki will next contest the Underwood Stakes and the pair may not clash until Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day.
Neasham also has multiple Group 1 winner Mo’unga among first acceptances, and while all the current talk has been centered on the potential match race between Zaaki and Verry Elleegant, he did beat the mare first up in the Winx Stakes and is proven over 2000 metres. He is one of the many talented four-year-olds looking to target this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate and we will get to see him race again this Saturday in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes. Other key four-year-old acceptors include Hungry Heart, Amarelinha, Lion’s Roar and Montefilia. All are Group 1 winners.
The 2020 Ladbrokes Cox Plate champion Sir Dragonet has accepted and is likely to defend his crown. He looked sharp in his recent trial and will be vying to win his third Australian Group 1 this Spring. He will have a new stablemate joining him in the coming weeks, with Ciaron Maher & David Eustace recently acquiring French import Gold Trip to their stable, who will arrive on the first flight of internationals next week. Gold Trip is a Group 2 winner in France, ran fourth in last year’s Arc De Triomphe, and will follow a very similar campaign to his Irish counterpart Sir Dragonet.
17 three-year-olds have put their names up in lights to contest the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate and this year they look an outstanding crop. Anamoe, Artorius, Captivant and Converge, all Group 1 winners, highlight the three-year-old brigade, while the likes of Hilal, Giannis and Forgot You also look promising. Under the Weight-For-Age scale, these colts would carry just 49.5kg in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate and could issue a strong challenge to their older rivals if they make the necessary progression. All will be answered in this space in the coming weeks, with the Group 1 Golden Rose and Caulfield Guineas still to be run and won.
After Arcadia Queen did the cerise and white colours proud last Spring, Bob Peters could have two runners in this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate. The leviathan owner from Western Australia transferred Group 1 winner Inspirational Girl and Group 1 runner-up Superstorm to trainer Danny O’Brien earlier this season and already they have tasted success. Superstorm last week secured the only golden ticket into the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, winning the Clamms Seafood Feehan Stakes, while Inspirational Girl steps out for a second time this weekend in the Makybe Diva Stakes. Neither horse will look out of place in the field on October 23.
Seasoned Weight-For-Age stars Behemoth and Tofane have both hinted that they will be targeting the Ladbrokes Cox Plate this year and it will be very interesting to track their progress over the coming months. Behemoth won the Group 1 Memsie Stakes, while Tofane ran third, but both horses are yet to run past 1600m. In fact, Tofane is a three-time Group 1 winner at 1400m but has never even ventured beyond that. Other familiar faces in first acceptances included Colette, Dalasan, Fifty Stars, Kolding, Homesman and of course New Zealand’s wonder mare Probabeel.
The only Internationally trained runner in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate this year will be Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest, a last start winner of the Group 1 Saratoga Derby in the US. Unlike many overseas trainers who are struggling to find flights due to the Covid crisis, O’Brien was able to secure tickets for his staff and the horse will arrive on the first shipment with Gold Trip. He looks a real x-factor type in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate and will make his presence felt with 56.5kg as a northern hemisphere four-year-old.
While the 79 horses do include most of Australia’s best middle-distance horses, some of the key withdrawals from initial nominations comprised of Mystic Journey, Avantage, Alligator Blood and boom filly Argentia, who has since withdrawn from the Spring with an injury.
Second acceptances will close on 21 September at 12 noon.
Ben’s Dream Ladbrokes Cox Plate Field
Anamoe – 49.5kg
Artorius – 49.5kg
Converge – 49.5kg
Gold Trip – 59kg
Hungry Heart – 55.5kg
Inspirational Girl – 57kg
Mo’unga – 57.5kg
Probabeel – 57kg
Sir Dragonet – 59kg
State Of Rest – 56.5kg
Superstorm – 59kg
Think It Over – 59kg
Tofane – 57kg
Verry Elleegant – 57kg
Zaaki – 59kg