Thu, Oct 25, 10:30am by Staff Writer
Racing heads to Moonee Valley this weekend for their two-day carnival, with Manikato Stakes night on Friday followed by Cox Plate Day on Saturday.
The Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) has always been regarded as Australia’s premier Weight-for-Age event and while there is only a small field this year it could go down as the most famous of all if Winx ($1.22) were to win what would be her fourth consecutive Cox Plate. In 2015, she trotted in by nearly 5L. In 2016 it was even easier when she walked in by 8L while last year’s victory looked hairy for a few moments but in the end she held off a game Humidor ($16) to win by 0.4L. Apart from a Cox Plate record, a victory would give her 29 straight wins, her 22nd G1 and take her over $20-million in prize money.
She’s joined by stable mate D’Argento ($34) who is yet to win from four starts this prep but he went down in a photo-finish to Hartnell in the G1 Epsom (1600m) and he is a G1 Rosehill Guineas winner over 2000m.
Humidor got very close last year and since then he’s won two races from ten starts – a G2 Blamey (1600m) and a G1 Memsie (1400m). He can mix his runs but at his best, many rate him the ‘second best horse in Australia’.
Darren Weir also saddles up Kings Will Dream ($31) who is on the back-up from last week’s G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) where he blundered the start but ran on to finish sixth – beaten 4L, with a post race vet report showing he had sustained some superficial lacerations. Humidor backed up from last year’s Caulfield Cup and like Humidor last year, Kings Will Dream may also see himself in a two-mile race on the first Tuesday in November.
Avilius ($21) has won all four of his Australian starts including a last start G3 Bart Cummings (2500m). All his victories have been narrow in margin but with some authority and while he’s somewhat of a forgotten horse for Saturday, his main aim lies at Flemington.
The internationals have had a good Melbourne spring so far including Benbatl ($8.50) who was a last start G1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) winner – in which Humidor ran third. Rostropovich ($41) is a four-year-old from the Aidan O’Brien yard having his first run in Australia while Savvy Coup ($34) is off a last start 2L G1 win in New Zealand.
Tony McEvoy won the G1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) last year with Hey Doc and on Friday he’s got three-year-old filly Sunlight ($4.60) in the race down on the 51kg minimum. Drawn in barrier three, McEvoy stated during the week that ‘She’s a speed horse on a speed track’.
Houtzen ($7.50) got within 0.1L of Nature Strip when first-up here at The Valley, before not getting much luck in the G1 Moir Stakes also over the Moonee Valley 1000m.
Kementari ($5) drops back from the G1 Makybe Diva (1600m) when fourth and while he hasn’t won this prep, he’s gone close a couple of times and with a bit more luck could have won the Memsie when beaten by a lip to Humidor.
Brave Smash ($9) was good here when second in the Moir two starts back before running eighth of 12 in The Everest (1200m) on a heavy-9. Spright ($34) was an eye-catching third in the Moir and she’s second-up here.
Invincible Star ($18) hasn’t had the smoothest of preps and while she does have two wins and a close second to Merchant Navy in Melbourne, her only defeat down in Victoria was over this track and distance.
Voodoo Lad ($15) has two wins from three attempts at Moonee Valley. Malaguerra ($11) has a G2 Australia Stakes (1200m) victory to his name here and he’s a five-time winner when first-up while interestingly Aidan O’Brien saddles up four runners in the race, Kerrin McEvoy the only Aussie jockey on one of the four -that being Fleet Review ($35). Ryan Moore flew down to partner US Navy Flag ($7.50) for The Everest and he’s done the same here – and he’s been strongly supported in early betting – while Oisin Murphy and Emmet McNamara ride Spirit of Valour ($12) and Intelligence Cross ($81).
Suggested Bet: Getting in early on MV’s two-day card and going with Pleasuring ($3.70, Friday race 2, number 2). A G3 winner in SA over 2500m, she was beaten less than a length in the G1 SA Oaks (2000m) and comes into this off a good third last start at Cranbourne – with a few coming out of that race. Fourth-up, she’s ready to win.
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