John Harms on the Cox Plate

A lot of my mates are traditionalists. They believe in giving the highest regard to the things which most deserve the highest regard. This is one of their Saturdays. They don’t call the ‘Cox Plate’ the ‘Cox Plate’. In all conversation and correspondence (especially this week) they refer to it as the ‘W.S. Cox Plate’ or even the ‘time-honoured W.S. Cox Plate’.

They couldn’t tell you what W and S stand for but that has never stopped them betting like the Watsons at this Moonee Valley meeting. And going home with a story or two, sometimes of a winner. Not last year though.

The W.S. Cox Plate was a favourites race for quite a while. It was a race where the best horse won; the best horse took out this grand final of the Australian turf and basked in the honour and accolade that went with it. But in recent times it has been harder to pick. So You Think was a long shot when he won the first time, and a dead-set certainty when he won it the following year. So You Think’s odds-on victory rests among quite a few recent long shot winners.

So, what is the best way to analyse the W.S. Cox Plate these days? Those mates of mine traditionally go looking for the best horse, but that’s hard to ascertain in an event as even as this year’s. How do you line up the youngsters – All Too Hard and Pierro – against the older horses? Are they going to be champs? Will a win here make them champs? Will we think of them as the best horse at some stage over the next few years?

So what matters this year? Being rather basic types, my cronies would say that having the right number on your ticket is all that matters. At the time. Yet they talk about the event like it’s up there with the birth of a child. Down the track.

What might matter in this 2012 W.S. Cox Plate is ‘the day’, because it looks like a classic example of which horse is the best on the day. And which horse has the good fortune in a helter-skelter affair. Hence, you can mount a case for most of them.

It’s such an even field, and a difficult race to analyse, that even the barrier draw can create controversy and become the topic of pub conversation, although Singo and Gai are brilliant at finding their way into the limelight, and you wonder what was going on in their spat. More Joyous will jump from a near-outside stall but will go across the field rather than have the field come across her.

She’s a fantastic mare but I can’t have her in this, on the basis of her previous record. Nor can I have the three year olds.

Rekindled Interest is a regular in this grade and will do more than make up the numbers but the gods have never really chosen him. Maybe this is his moment. Southern Speed is honest but hasn’t shown the ping required for a W S Cox Plate.

If you regard Green Moon’s win in the Turnbull you have to give him a huge chance. He was ridden like he was the best horse in that race – and that’s saying something in a Group 1 of that quality. So that means you can put the pen through a few that finished behind him. Unless luck goes the way of a horse like Happy Trails (who can ping) in the way it did for the sadly-departed Pinker Pinker last year. So many complications in this.

I liked the run of Alcopop in the Caulfield Cup having come off a nice WFA run behind Ocean Park. Which is a roundabout way of getting to Ocean Park. He’s won three Group 1 events in a row – which makes him very good. His Underwood win was outstanding. He has the brilliance to win this Cox Plate and with the three year olds having such an impact in the betting Ocean Park is each-way value. That probably puts Sincero in the mix as well, although he will need luck from way out there if he’s to run it out well and proper. I’ll be leaving him out.

But that’s just one view of the race. You could focus on many other form-lines and write a different story for each.My story throws up the numbers 9. Ocean Park 5. Rekindled Interest and 4. Green Moon.

I hope to have a little cash by the time the main event is run, mainly secured in Race 3.Texan Warney is an interesting runner in the third. He’s trained by that old bush trainer D.I. Dodson, the wheat farmer from Telopea Downs, out on the edge of the Mallee. D.I. Dodson is more likely to take his better chances to Adelaide than bring them to Melbourne. He doesn’t like the traffic. Texan Warney won impressively at Morphettville and a then took out the Horsham Cup with a run where he just kept giving. He’s no Cox Plate runner but he’ll be good value in this small field. And besides, not long after the races cricket writer Gideon Haigh launches his book about Warney at the South Yarra CC. That’s good enough for me.

Hopefully Texan Wareny and Ocean Park will have put enough in the kick to buy a box of them.