James McDonald aboard Romantic Warrior (Image: Racing Photos)
There's no denying former champion jockey Brent Thomson knows how to win a Cox Plate, having done it four times.
It's Cox Plate legend that in 1975 Thomson, then a rising star apprentice from New Zealand, announced himself in Australia as 'the baby-faced assassin' when he won the race as a 17-year-old aboard Fury's Order.
He then went on to win it in three-successive years aboard horses Family Man (1977), So Called (1978) and Dulcify, with the latter victory by a legendary six lengths in 1979.
All those triumphs came before his 22nd birthday for the man now affectionally known as 'The Babe'.
Across his star-studded career he rode in 24 countries and recorded more than 2500 wins, including 54 at Group 1 level, while he was inducted into both the Australian and New Zealand Racing Halls of Fame.
But Moonee Valley has always held a special place for Thomson and he says there's no way he'd miss being trackside on Saturday to witness the 103rd edition of the classic race.
He's confident Hong Kong champion and race favourite Romantic Warrior will bounce back from his unplaced first-up run when he was fourth in the Turnbull Stakes and prove tough to beat.
He is especially confident given Romantic Warrior will be partnered by jockey James McDonald, who is hoping to extend his own run of Cox Plate history going for back-to-back wins in the race after his victory last year aboard Anamoe.
"It's a race that doesn't usual spring many surprises, so I'll be on him," Thomson said.
"I think he's the one and he's got a pretty special pilot on board and I know Danny Shum has him in pretty good nick, he's a logical favourite.
"All the intel that I get, the Hong Kong horse is going very well, he's improved vastly since his Turnbull Stakes run.
"That form is always so rock solid and the Caulfield Cup result bears witness to that."
Romantic Warrior has drawn ideally in barrier seven according to Thomson.
"I'm not sure I'd like jumping from barrier one but probably five to seven," he said.
"Middle of the field is probably pretty cruisy given the options going to the first corner until they sort themselves out, if I had my pick that's where I'd be aiming for."
Reflecting on his own incredible success in the race, Thomson says he still marvels at having been a part of the history of such an iconic race.
"I'm no good at arithmetic but I worked out that it's 44 years since I won the last one, that's a bit scary in itself," he said.
"I was 21 years old when I won it last, I was pretty young, I started at 17. It was a good race and very kind to me.
"The first time I won it was a bit of a shock, it took me a couple of days to get a hold of that.
"Then winning a second one and then a third one and by the time Dulcify came along, I thought it was getting pretty easy by that time.
"But I was only a passenger that day and he was quite scary to ride and it's such an exciting race that it's good to come back to Moonee Valley every year to watch that race and be a witness to great horses going around in it.
"It's amazing to be a part of any big win but this is pretty special."