THE ADELAIDE FACTOR LIFTS COX PLATE PROFILE.
After the Cox Plate’s position and profile as Australasia’s premier weight for age championship took a hit last year when Shamus Award’s victory created history for the wrong reason – a Maiden winning this prestigious Group One for the first time- the memorable win in the 2014 edition last Saturday by Adelaide, owned by the international racing and breeding giant Coolmore, quickly restored the reputation of one of Australia’s most iconic weight for age contests.
Adelaide’s win created its own piece of history – the first time an “international” horse had etched its name on the famous silverware. And in doing so, Adelaide has done what Vintage Crop did for the Melbourne Cup back in 1983, in this instance, internationalizing the Cox Plate 31 years later in 2014.
It was what the Cox Plate desperately needed, and, to be brutally honest, Australian racing as well. Ever since Vintage Crop internationalized the Melbourne Cup, there’s been a steady influx of International horses from the northern hemisphere making the trip down under- an influx, which in more recent times has developed into a stampede of highly-rated quality visitors lining up to dominate Australia’s most famous race.
Clearly, the Caulfield Cup is also heading that way, and, no doubt, the wins of Gordon Lord Byron and Hana’s Goal in the Championships last Autumn will give Sydney’s Autumn carnival the boost it so desperately needs.
The Cox Plate, for a variety of reasons, the most significant being the amphitheatre like contour and layout of the track, the tightness of the circuit and the short straight, have combined to be a major “turn-off” factor for northern hemisphere owners and trainers and their high quality racehorses.
Last Saturday, Adelaide turned that all around. Adelaide is no run of the mill European invader lured by the generous invitation subsidy by the Moonee Valley Race Club, desperate to retain the prestige and cache of its own “jewel in the crown”.
Aidan O’Brien rated him the second best at Ballydoyle, second only to Coolmore’s champion three year old colt, the dual Derby winner Australia. So highly did he rate Adelaide, that O’Brien pleaded with connections to retain him and prepare the son of Galileo for an assault on some of Europe’s most prestigious black type races in the 2015 flat racing season.
Aidan’s pleas may yet come to fruition. Adelaide’s amazing and breathtaking Cox Plate win has already given connections second thoughts about leaving the colt with Chris Waller and a tilt at the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney in the Autumn, or, returning him to Ballydoyle to be prepared for the Group One riches which await him in the European summer.
It could appear to be a no-brainer. Winning one or more of the prestigious Group Ones in the UK or France would permanently secure Adelaide’s future as a shuttler. He would attract a harem that any Middle Eastern king or prince would be proud of.
Besides, Aidan O’Brien is a proven stallion maker, and Coolmore are risk averse when it comes to rolling the dice and placing their best European colts, bred at home or purchased through the sales ring with other trainers, the great French trainer Andre Fabre being the exception.
Adelaide’s Cox Plate win personified excellence at the highest level in thoroughbred racing. As a northern hemisphere bred three year old, he was weighted not to win, giving weight away to his older and more seasoned rivals of the highest class and quality; he drew the “car park” on a tight turning track which has proven the undoing of many, and he had earned plenty of frequent flyer points since August with his Melbourne appearance- the third continent in which he competed in having won the Group One Arlington Million and run a desperately unlucky second in a Group 2 in France. At the tender age of three, and with such a quick acclimatization process to content with, it was a remarkable performance by Adelaide.
What also needs to be acknowledged and recognized are the roles played by Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore. Both are tall poppies and often draw criticism that others in their professions avoid.
Aidan O’Brien trained Adelaide by remote control from his Ballydoyle base, and without detracting from the pivotal role trained by his travelling foreman, the buck always stops with the trainer and Adelaide’s victory said it all about his champion trainer.
Similarly, there’s very little that has not been said about the talent and ability of Ryan Moore.
He is a champion jockey, and his winning CV of some of the world’s greatest races says it all.
Ryan Moore had never ridden at Moonee Valley and had the good sense to walk the track on Friday with one of the best in Brent “the babe” Thomson. “The Babe”, below, has four Cox Plate’s in his trophy cabinet and holds the record for the most number of Cox Plate wins as a jockey.
Ryan Moore’s ride on Adelaide was as brave as it was calculating. He was on the best horse in the race and rode it accordingly. Can’t ask for anything more. It was a fitting win for connections, the racehorse and for Australian racing.
RUPEE RECLAIMS CROWN
Another highlight from a wonderful weekend of racing in “bleak city” was the triumph of the world’s best sprinter-Lankan Rupee- in the Group One Manikato Stakes on the Friday night preceding the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
It’s fair to say that the jury was well and truly out on Lankan Rupee. In his two previous starts in this campaign, the “Rupee” had gone under, albeit by the narrowest of margins, to Angelic Light and Buffering, both quality racehorses, but not in the same league as the world’s champion sprinter. Lankan Rupee had to contend with a couple of setbacks. Minor though they have been, at the elite level of competition, the impact can be a lot more telling. Add to that, the Moonee Valley track on which he has never been comfortable with, and has appeared to be his nemesis.
Notwithstanding the double protests from the runners-up, Lankan Rupee’s performance was top class and possibly one of his finest.
Overcoming another setback in the form of a quarter crack between runs, and a wide barrier Craig Newitt produced what trainer Mick Price accurately described as a “brave ride” to use the Rupee up early and cross Buffering and set up a “see how good you are if you can catch me” pace scenario.
He was entitled to be “gassed” early in the straight and be run over by the late finishers, but his undoubted class and championship qualities enabled Lankan Rupee to hold on and record a memorable victory.
True, he did shift out at the top of the straight, but was it sufficient to cost Angelic Light and Famous Seamus victory? Not according to the Stewards headed by Terry Bailey. And yes, they got it right. Finally.
And again, like Adelaide, Mick Price, his trainer and jockey Craig Newitt excelled in their pivotal roles.
Mick Price is an outstanding trainer and horseman, who, like many of his profession doesn’t confuse his professional role with the “blame game” that they indulge in to explain every possible failure.
Craig Newitt, may not have the profile of many of his rivals, but he is no stranger to Groups One wins in Australia and overseas.
He knows Lankan Rupee inside out and rides him accordingly.
On the Final day of the Spring Carnival, Lankan Rupee will face one of his biggest tests in the Darley Classic where his main challengers- the up and coming sprinting star and heir apparent to Lankan Rupee, Chautaqua awaits-along with British super star Slade Power. It could be one of the races of the carnival.
A SUPERB DERBY DAY OF RACING.
Hats and whatever else can and needs to be taken off to “Bleak City” racing for the super race card that awaits those who will either be present in person or at home or wherever they might choose to watch and participate in Flemington’s Derby Day race meeting.
On a race card that meets every criteria for the highest quality of racehorse, jockey and trainer from both local and interstate representation and a selection of big names from Europe, it’s difficult to find one better in recent times.
The Coolmore Stakes for three year olds over the 1200 metres straight course is arguably the best for many a long time. Fittingly a Group One, it is a race where the best of the best three year olds in Australia will challenge each, other with one exception – Mossfun, the Slipper winner out of action through injury.
Similarly the Mackinnon is packed with a high quality weight for age line-up over the 2000 metres distance with several possible visitors to Hong Kong in December eager to win the race and secure their invitation.
Even the VRC Derby, often wrongly maligned for quality, is a race with some potentially high class staying three year olds making up a big field of 16 starters.
The Myer Classic for Mares, a Group One race which again just oozes class and quality. Four Group Ones and a support card of two Group Two’s and three Group Three’s – it is one of the best days of racing in Australia.
It just gets even better with the presence of Hong Kong-based Joao Moreira and Europe’s Andrea Atzeni, two of the poster boys in the world riding ranks, being legged up at Flemington.
Whilst Atzeni’s name may not yet be recognizable to Australian racegoers and racing aficionados, Moreira’s cult following in Hong Kong has every racing jurisdiction being trampled in the rush to get the “magic man” to ride at their International racing carnivals.
That Moreira has been booked for eight rides on the nine race card- and on some of the major chances in these races- says it all about the ability of the “magic man” and the respect he commands in Australian racing.
SWEET LORETTA, AKA THE ZAC ATTACK, IS AFTER YOU, JOAO JOAO!
Still on Joao, could Zac Purton have sent a clearer message to his arch rival- “The Magic Man” at last Sunday’s Shatin fixture with his five timer to reduce the gap on the jockeys premiership between the two to just a solitary win?
When the new season kicked off just over a month ago, and hitting the ground running, Moreira, riding like a “magic man” possessed, quickly established a sizeable lead over his rivals- and in particular, his main rival, last season’s titleholder Zac Purton.
Whilst Moreira failed to bring any of his rides back to the winners stall, Zac Purton put on a riding master class, riding a career best five timer, and sending a clear and unambiguous message to the “Magic Man” in his quest to dethrone the titleholder.
If there were any doubts about Zac’s hunger and respect for the title, he dispelled it convincingly last Sunday.
Clearly, Zac Purton and Joao Moreira are riding at the peak of their powers and ability. It is great for racing- and for Hong Kong, it is a wonderful position to be in.
At this point in time, Hong Kong is home to the “big three” – Purton, Moreira and Whyte – collectively the best three jockeys in the world- and is testament to the strength of Hong Kong racing and its administrators that it can rightfully lay claim to hosting one of the best riding rosters in the racing world.
ANOTHER BLACK DAY FOR SYDNEY RACING- AND THE “GENIUS” OF MATT RUDOLPH
It is getting close to “mission impossible” to see any light at the end of a very long tunnel with metropolitan field sizes in Sydney.
This week saw Warwick Farm’s Wednesday mid-week meeting attract a paltry 53 final acceptances for a seven race card while 71 were paid up for Rosehill’s eight race card on Saturday at acceptance time with three of the Rosehill races not meeting the mandatory eight starters requirement to pay a third place dividend, or for the exotic duet (quinella place), bet to be wagered on.
The decline in field sizes has been a problem which has regressed to such an extent that small fields of below eight starters are now a regular and almost permanent feature of a Saturday and Mid-Week metropolitan race meeting in Sydney.
It is a problem which has been highlighted by the vast majority of the “50,000 participants” that the fearless leader Peter Vlundies has constantly reminded all are front and centre of “every breath he takes”.
Yet, these are the very stakeholders who are being duped by the failure of those responsible to fix up the programming, handicapping, and everything else that has contributed to this massive problem. And yes, these are the very people who ultimately pay the price through the severe impact on wagering and the low returns to the NSW racing that small sizes guarantee.
The almost comical irony of this whole sad sorry mess was made even more telling picking up the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and reading that the ATC Racing Manager Matt Rudolph, below, had “opened a review of Saturday field sizes in Sydney after disappointing acceptances for Rosehill on Saturday”. Genius move.
According to the SMH report, Rudolph stated: “We are looking to find out why we can’t get runners on a Saturday. The small field without each way betting is costing us turnover and is not a good sight”.
Is he fucking serious? This Monty Pythonesque-type of bureaucratic bullshit makes one understand better the root of the problem.
It’s just like everything else in NSW racing: solutions are only thought about and sought when things just can’t get any worse than what they are.
For someone with such a lofty title as Racing Manager, Rudolph’s response is as puerile as it is unacceptable.
Just what, if anything, has the ATC and Racing NSW done for all this time while metropolitan field sizes have been dwindling?
Maybe Rudolph has been based somewhere in the arctic circle with his herd of red nosed reindeer?
For how much longer can the ATC and Racing NSW continue to turn their hearing aids off to the problems of NSW racing?
It is the very reason that Racing Minister Troy Grant should place very clear and unambiguous guidelines and retain the ultimate say on how Racing NSW spends any of the extra funding that he may sign off on through lowering the State Government take out rate from racing.
It is also a compelling and potent reason to clean sweep the board of Racing NSW through the current appointment process and get fresh blood onto the new Board.