John Allen aboard State Of Rest

John Allen aboard State Of Rest after their Cox Plate win (Image: Racing Photos)

The Cox Plate of uncertainty

By the time the eight-horse Cox Plate field had jumped away at about 5:10pm on Saturday, the only certainty was uncertainty.

The lingering uncertainty stayed with the race for another 25 minutes after it had been completed until finally, as the horses were taking to the track for the final race of the meeting, the Cox Plate result was finally confirmed.

Ireland-trained Saratoga Derby winner State Of Rest had nosed out Caulfield Guineas winner Anamoe, both on the track and later in the stewards' room.

Seemingly, the race was destined to end with a protest or some other drama after it had been battered by an array of factors in the lead-up, from international wariness over welfare protocols to interstate rivalries over race programming before the final blow with the race-morning scratching of its long-time headliner Zaaki.

Just eight raced the starter and when the field was let go, punters had thrown their lots behind the colt Anamoe, who was trying to become the first Guineas winner to take a Cox Plate in the same season since Red Anchor in 1984.

He seemed to have the right credentials to make this a memorable Cox Plate by winning Godolphin's first but, as the lead-up the race indicated, the 2021 edition was never going to go to any sort of script.

Anamoe ultimately failed to win the race by a few centimetres, before narrowly being beaten again in the stewards' room when they denied the protest from jockey Craig Williams for interference in the home straight.

Williams later said State Of Rest made contact with his horse and he went into the stewards' room confident he could turn over the result.

"Contact was made by the winner that we had grounds to hopefully overturn the positions in the stewards' room but we weren't so fortunate," he said. "That's racing and we move on.

"He is a serious racehorse and for a three-year-old to go so close, he's a real Australian star in the making. Looking forward to his future starts and unfortunately we ran second today."

WATCH: State Of Rest's Cox Plate win

The race had already thrown up a range of quirky stats before prized import Gold Trip was ruled out with lameness 24 before the race and Zaaki, who has carried the headlines for this race for six months, was withdrawn with an elevated temperature on race morning.

This all came less than a week after reigning champion Sir Dragonet was sadly euthanised after breaking a leg in a final lead-up gallop.

The Moonee Valley Racing Club committee also denied former Japanese G1 winner Keiai Nautique a start in the race, despite having just 11 final acceptors.

Also, the country's premier weight-for-age race was run without a single Victorian-trained horse contesting it. And for those horses who did, not one of them had even been placed at The Valley, let alone won a race there.

It had its two G1-winning three-year-olds in Anamoe and Captivant, but contained just one four-year-old in Mo'unga as The Golden Eagle in Sydney continues to bite into the race.

Without the $7 million Golden Eagle option, it is likely both I'm Thunderstruck and Epsom Handicap winner Private Eye would have been instead racing for the Cox Plate.

Mark Power, representing Joseph O'Brien, was thankful for the services of John Allen aboard the horse and again when fronting the stewards after State Of Rest gave Anamoe a slight bump in the run to the line as Anamoe challenged on the Irish horse's inside.

"It's not good for the heart - I'm absolutely trembling like a leaf," he said.

"Johnny Allen was super, he's strong as an ox. You couldn't have a better man on your side.

"Luckily we had Johnny. It's a relatively new process for me and luckily we came out on the right side of it."

Allen had ridden for O'Brien's legendary father Aidan before making his move to Australia and he said he was glad the Irish were able to hold back the protest from Williams.

"Craig's always a good talker, we all know that," he said. "I think there were too many Paddies in there for them to understand us.

"The way it was going, there were a few anxious moments but I think the right decision was made.

"There was a bit of a bump there and I couldn't celebrate. Thank God we got the win and it's been a great job by Mark and the team."

Joseph O'Brien sent down State Of Rest as a late entry into the race and he was the only internationally trained galloper. There were four last year, including the winner Sir Dragonet and four the year before including the winner Lys Gracieux.

That State Of Rest could overcome a trip from Saratoga in the US, pass all the stringent fitness protocols, put up with just one friend in quarantine (the luckless Gold Trip) and then beat the best of what was on offer on the track, says plenty about him and his trainer, who now has a Cox Plate to go with his two Melbourne Cups.