Peter Ellis

published: 17 Oct 2014 in Q&A

Over the years there has been no more competitive race on the Australian calendar than the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.

Since its inception in 1922 the event has been won by the greats of the turf.

Names appearing on the honor role include Heroic, Phar Lap, Ajax, Delta, Hydrogen, Rising Fast, Noholme, Tulloch, Surround, Family of Man, Dulcify, Kingston Town, Bonecrusher, Octagonal, Saintly, Might and Power, Sunline, Northerly, Makybe Diva and So You Think.

While this year’s renewal might not be attracting a vintage field there is still interest aplenty in the race.

With this in mind Stallions questioned international racing analyst Peter Ellis about the outstanding winners of the Cox Plate he has seen, whether the redesigning of the Valley will impact on the race, the problemsassociated with attracting runners from overseas and the AAMI Vase.


Q.: Who do you consider to be your most impressive Cox Plate winner

A.: Dulcify in 1979. Ridden by Brent Thomson he raced away to win by seven lengths from Shivaree with others of the calibre of Lawman, Salamander, Karaman, Gypsy Kingdom, Imposing and Ming Dynasty in the beaten brigade.


Q.: Who do you rate next best

A.: Obviously Kingston Town with his three wins in 1980, 1981 and 1982.


Q.: What other outstanding Cox Plate winners have you seen

A.: I would start that list with Surround, who won as a three-year-old filly in 1976. Others would include Family of Man, Strawberry Road, Red Anchor, Bonecrusher, Better Loosen Up, Super Impose, Octagonal, Saintly, Might and Power going on to Sunline, Northerly and So You Think, who each won in successive years.


Q.: Do you have any special memories of the Cox Plate

A.: Quite a lot. Narrowing them down I would say Bonecrusher’s bruising battle with Our Waverley Star over the last 700m in 1986. Their confrontation was described in thrilling style by Bill Collins.

Then, of course, in 1982 there was Bill’s declaration that “Kingston Town can’t win” as the field was swinging for home. Saintly’s narrow win in 1996 after that torrid four-way confrontation down the straight with Filante, All Our Mob and Juggler is another. Then there was the 1992 renewal, won by Super Impose, after the even money favorite Naturalism had lost jockey Mick Dittman at the 600m mark. Really it seems every Cox Plate is memorable for one reason or another.


Q.: How does the Cox Plate compare with similar international events

A.: In my view the Cox Plate would be at least four lengths inferior to the major international weight-for-age races such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Breeders Cup Classic, Irish Champion Stakes and the Juddmonte International. I think the Cox Plate is probably inferior to the Hong Kong International Cup, but not by four lengths.


Q.: How difficult is it to attract top overseas performers to the race

A.: Very, because of the timing. The Cox Plate is run in close proximity to the Arc de Triomphe, Breeders Cup Turf, Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders Cup Mile, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Champion Stakes at Ascot, now worth 1.3m English pounds which is over $A2m and its in your own backyard.  At the same time I think that the imported horse Adelaide is the one to beat this year. He was purchased by Australians to stay in Australia and I think that’s the only way a top class international horse will be attracted to the Cox Plate. It must also be said that the quarantine requirements coming into Australia are not advantageous.


Q.: Do you feel the re-shaping of Moonee Valley will impact on the Cox Plate

A.: I don’t think it will make much difference because it is still going to be on a tight track, whichever way it goes. In a race like the Cox Plate the pressure is going to be on from the 600m so I don’t think it will matter much where the turns are.


Q.: Who do you regard as your best AAMI Vase winner

A.: I think probably the best one I have seen is Naturalism, who was successful in 1991. Coming off a second to Chortle in the Caulfield Guineas he sat fifth until Damien Oliver dashed him away from his rivals to score impressively. Naturalism went on to finish second to Star of the Realm in the Derby.


Q.: What other notable winners have there been in your time

A.: Diatribe, Helenus, Efficient and Whobegotyou.


Q.: How important is the Vase from a Victoria Derby viewpoint

A.: It was run at 1600m until 1986 when Raveneaux won over 2040m. Since then the Vase has become clearly the best guide to the Derby. More winners and placegetters in the Derby have come through the Vase than any other race including the Norman Robinson and the Spring Champion Stakes.