By Ben Caluzzi
Unfortunately, the lockdown gods prevented us from hosting a crowd for the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival and the stands sat empty for a second year running. However, that took nothing away from the high-quality racing as we were treated to two terrific spectacles in both Group 1 features – nestled among many other highlights.
Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes Night
Following the same weather patterns as last year, the rain stayed away on Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes night, and we were operating on a good track from race 1. Favourite backers were well rewarded throughout the night with many odds-on commodities saluting. In the feature race, Jonker was the best backed runner – $13 into $5.50 – giving bookies another poor result.
Thought Of That carried our $500 Cheering For Charity bet courtesy of Ladbrokes, and he led from pillar to post under Linda Meech to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House Charities Foundation VIC & TAS. The very next race the resurgence of jockey Brett Prebble was again on display for all to see, as he got Chris Waller’s Only Words home with a terrific ride – one that duly earnt him the Drummond Golf Ride of the Night.
Other highlights from the card included a jubilant Julie Scott who claimed victory in the Chandler Macleod VOBIS Gold Star with Wicklow Town; Yulong Command who proved too speedy in Heat 3 of the Ladbrokes 55 Second Challenge; and in the inaugural running of the Seppelt Wines Country Cup Final it was Danny O’Brien’s Exeter who conquered.
It all built-up to a terrific Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes, with Jonker clinging on to victory to win his first Group 1. (See detailed review below.) The son of Spirit Of Boom became trainer Tony Gollan’s second Victorian Group 1 winner – Spirit Of Boom won the William Reid Stakes in 2014 – and his sixth Group 1 winner overall.
The story of the night though was without doubt that of Daniel Moor, who won his third Group 1 race in the space of only four weeks. Moor has been riding for 18 years and has never been in better form. After claiming his first ever Group 1 with Sierra Sue last month, he has since won the Group 1 Charter Keck Cramer Moir Stakes with Wild Ruler and now the Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes with Jonker.
Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day
A well needed rest and recharge was required Friday night in preparation for a huge day of racing on Saturday. However, early Saturday morning we were hit with the heartbreaking news that long-time favourite Zaaki was going to be scratched from the Ladbrokes Cox Plate due to an elevated temperature – just one day after French import Gold Trip had to be withdrawn due to showing lameness at Werribee.
Naturally, this came as a big blow for everyone – the months of preparation and build-up gone in a flash. While the news may have dented our spirits temporarily, it could not stop the writing of another legendary chapter in the 101st running of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (See detailed review below). Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day always delivers epic racing, emotional moments and inspiring stories – left, right and centre.
Among the undercard to the Group 1 feature, Semillion made an impressive winning debut in the Inglis Banner, Adelaide visitor Dexelation won his second race at The Valley in the Ladbrokes Handica – giving rider Jye McNeil two wins in quick succession – and then Drama Queen bounced back with a terrific win in the PFD Food Services Crockett Stakes.
With the three Listed races on the card knocked over early, the black type was on offer with all of the remaining seven races with two Group 3’s, four Group 2’s and of course the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate still to come.
Generation was well supported in the Tandem Building Group Red Anchor Stakes and won well in good time, before James McDonald became the second jockey to score a race-to-race double with Mokulua winning the 3 Point Motors Fillies Classic. Pat Reeves, proud daughter of the legendary trainer of Manikato Bob Hoysted, couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as she brought Mokulua back to scale. It was certainly one of the feel-good moments of the carnival.
Bendigo trainer Josh Julius caused the great upset with Just Folk winning the Schweppes Crystal Mile, Forgot You was a popular winner in the Drummond Golf Vase, and Lunar Flare was too good for the boys in the $1million McCafé Moonee Valley Gold Cup.
Tom Dabernig’s airborne mare Flying Mascot won the final race on the card, the Powerflo Solutions Tesio Stakes under double wraps.
The Ladbrokes Cox Plate – Australia’s Best Race
The Ladbrokes Cox Plate was the penultimate race of the day and a tense watch from start to finish. The field was strung out and the well fancied runners were many lengths off the leading division. But as the pressure rose, so did the class horses – and State Of Rest, Anamoe, and Verry Elleegant soon became the only winning chances as they cornered for home.
State Of Rest and Anamoe paired down to fight it out – and it was the Irish horse State Of Rest who got his head down when it mattered most. Craig Williams, jockey of Anamoe fired in a protest immediately after the race – but after a nerve-racking half an hour, stewards eventually dismissed the protest.
State Of Rest became only the second Irish-trained winner of the W.S. Cox Plate, handing 28-year-old trainer Joseph O’Brien a third major to go with his two Melbourne Cups. It was his dad Aidan O’Brien who became the first international trainer to win the race with Adelaide in 2014 – and for their Irish pilot Johnny Allen, it was his thirteenth Group 1 but more importantly his first Cox Plate.
The 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival, and in particular the 101st running of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate will go down in history as one of the greatest editions we have ever seen.
We can’t wait to do it all again when we can welcome back The Valley’s beating heart with 35,000 cheering fans in 2022.
2021 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes Review
“If the racing Gods sat down to create the perfect prelude to one of the finest weight-for-age races in the world, they would probably come up with something that looks and feels a lot like the Manikato Stakes,” wrote Mick Sharkie in the build-up to this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival.
And although the 2021 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes was lacking in top-end talent due to The Everest only one week prior, the race itself delivered a cracking finish, nonetheless.
With 10 of the 13 runners yet to win their first Group 1, the stakes were high, and the pressure was on. Ready, clear. They broke in a perfect line. Bella Nipotina, Crystal Bound, Lombardo and the favourite Savatoxl were first into stride, but the Queensland visitor Jonker mustered speed and took up his usual role in front.
Riding in the form of his life, Daniel Moor got a crucial breather once he found the lead and controlled the race with the Magic Millions Sprint winner Jonker. Coming to the 400 he had caught all the others off the bit early, and there were only two horses you wanted to be on entering the straight.
John Allen seemingly had a lap full of horse with Bella Nipotina sitting in the box seat, but they had to wait for Jonker to stride clear before they were eventually afforded the breaks. Jonker slipped two lengths clear and looked all bar the winner, but then began to shorten stride in the concluding stages with the 173-metre straight seemingly feeling like a kilometer for his Queensland connections.
Bella Nipotina put in a late dive, but it was to no avail. Jonker won the Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes by 0.1L to the mare, with three-year-old Ingratiating back in third, and multiple Group 1 winner Streets Of Avalon in fourth.
For Queensland’s leading trainer Tony Gollan, it was his second Victorian Group 1 after he won the William Reid Stakes with Spirit Of Boom in 2014 – who was the sire of Jonker! The story of night though was without doubt the rise of Daniel Moor. In 18 years of riding Moor had yet to win a Group 1, but in only one month he now has three – including the Moir Stakes with Wild Ruler and the Manikato with Jonker.
A maiden Group 1 winner, Jonker may not be Buffering, but life is great in the sunshine state – and those Queenslanders are celebrating.
2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Review
With the scratching of French import Gold Trip on the Friday and then the sensational withdrawal of long-time favourite Zaaki early Saturday morning, the immediate build-up to the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate certainly wasn’t as we had planned it.
But, if you thought the race was going to be lacking due to the reduced field, your doubts were put to rest in swift fashion.
Australia’s Best Race delivered in spades, as it always does, and although for the second year running, we were unable to host a crowd, the drama-filled edition that was #CoxPlate101 will go down in the history books forever.
Captivant used barrier 1 and led them at a good gallop throughout. He had Callsign Mav and Dalasan parked behind him, with the next trio Mo’unga, Probabeel and State Of Rest two lengths further back. Looking to become the first Caulfield Guineas since Red Anchor to win the Cox Plate in the same season, Anamoe was second last, while champion mare Verry Elleegant spotted the speed twelve lengths at the tail of the field.
Little changed during the race. Little until they got to the school side of course. As is the case with many a Cox Plate we have ever seen, the moves came 600 metres out, the pressure rose, and the heavyweights hit top gear. State Of Rest travelled sweetly in sixth, and once Johnny Allen angled off and found the gap – the son of Starspangledbanner exploded to the front in the twinkling of an eye.
“Running through them State Of Rest!” Matt Hill’s voice increased a few decibels as the Irish horse got the split and shot to the lead. It was the moment that, had there been a crowd, their seats still would have been empty. But the race was far from over. Verry Elleegant circled them and loomed ominously as a danger, while Craig Williams on Anamoe had pinched all the breaks and found a terrific inside run.
With Verry Elleegant wobbling around the turn, it was down to the colts State Of Rest and Anamoe to fight it out. They went head-to-head for the entire straight, stride for stride with the ultimate glory awaiting them at the finish line, but it was State Of Rest who got his head down on the post and prevailed. The official winning margin was 0.1L, and it was without doubt one of the best finishes we have ever witnessed at The Valley.
Yet still the race was not over. Craig Williams rightfully fired in a protest immediately after the race, due to interference State Of Rest caused Anamoe at the 150 metre mark, but after a nail-biting 30 minute deliberation – the stewards finally dismissed the protest.
State Of Rest was officially awarded the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate, becoming only the second ever Irish-trained winner of our great race. Joseph O’Brien followed in his legendary father’s footsteps who won the race with Adelaide in 2014, while for Johnny Allen it was a full circle moment, winning the Ladbrokes Cox Plate exactly nine years to the day after he rode his very first flat winner at St. Arnaud on Cox Plate Day in 2012.
Irish eyes were smiling as State Of Rest was crowned king of The Valley, and as for the protest – the luck was with the Paddy’s once more.