3 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 2 CONTENTS O5 Chairman’s Welcome 06 The Story Behind the Race William Samuel Cox 08-13 A Centenary of Legendary W.S. Cox Plate Timeline 15 Freakish Filly Surround Stands Alone in Cox Plate History 19 My W.S. Cox Plate Story - Ben Caluzzi 34 Kerry Gillespie – First Past the Post 36 2022 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Contenders 38 Memories of the Cox Plate - 1992 Super Impose 42 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Centenary Podcast Series 44 Make-A-Wish Bridgette’s Story 46 Q&A with Lizzie Jelfs 50 The Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes - Richest Race Under lights 52 Heathcote Set on Taking Aim at Manikato with Rothfire 58 Moonee Valley Park Updates
5 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 4 CAPTIVATING RACING IMAGE CHAIRMAN’S Welcome This particular issue of On Track carries extra significance for the Club as we approach the Centenary running of our signature race, the W.S. Cox Plate. We reflect on 100 wonderful years of stories and legends that have graced the hallowed turf of The Valley ever since Violoncello won the very first W.S. Cox Plate in 1922. Legends such as Phar Lap, Tulloch, Kingston Town, Bonecrusher, Sunline, So You Think and of course Winx have all celebrated their greatest successes here at The Valley. And then there are those personal memories of the W.S. Cox Plate – those moments frozen in time that to this day still evoke strong emotions and provide fertile territory for some brilliant storytelling. We have gathered up some fascinating recollections from MVRC’s first female Committee Member in 1997 and Life member in 2013 Kerry Gillespie, racing journalists Michael Manley and Bruce Clark, and our very own racing analyst and media executive Ben Caluzzi. There is also a feature on our new Ladbrokes Cox Plate Ambassador, Lizzie Jelfs, and highlights from our Centenary of Legendary podcast series featuring Matt Hill, Ricky Ponting and Glen Boss among many others. We also showcase the amazing work of our Cox Plate Carnival Charity Pin partner, Make-A-Wish Australia with a heart-warming story of one of their wish children, Bridgette. The Redevelopment project continues to progress, and we recently celebrated an important milestone as we welcomed in the first residents to Feehan Row. The Club is currently a hive of activity as we prepare The Valley for what will be the highlight of the Spring Carnival as all eyes fall on our signature race. With general admission tickets sold out and nearly every hospitality seat taken, it will doubtless be a fitting spectacle to bookend 100 years. So, who will be crowned the next Legend of the $5m Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate? Following the mini-Cox Plate running of the Might and Power at Caulfield on Saturday 8 October, has the dress rehearsal for the main event on Saturday 22 October already given us the winner? Of the main contenders, Anamoe and Zaaki look to be peaking just in time for redemption following their respective misfortunes or bad luck last year, and I’m Thunderstruck will be looking to beat his two archrivals this time around. Whatever is to unfold, the Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival will be a celebration of the ages as we get back to The Valley doing what we love most. I thank our members for your support and wish you a memorable Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival. Don Casboult Chairman
7 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 6 Taking advantage of the growing popularity of the Spring Carnival at Flemington, Sam added a Spring meeting to his racing program at Kensington. He chose the Saturday before the Victoria Derby – which remains the W.S. Cox Plate to this day. When the crowds became too large for the Kensington track, he leased a 98-acre farm from Richard Feehan, officially becoming the Moonee Valley racetrack on 15 September 1883. William ‘Sam’ Cox was a noted sportsman and amateur rider from Scotland. He quickly became a pioneer of thoroughbred racing in Australia, opening his first venture, Kensington Park Racecourse, in 1874. A DOCUMENTARY BY THIS FILM STUDIO IN ASSOCIATION WITH RCKT CO. WITH SCREEN AUSTRALIA. HOSTED BY JOSH GIBSON AND FEATURING JAMIE KAH, BRUCE MCAVANEY, ANTHONY MITHEN, DANNY O’BRIEN AND BEN HAYES. A J O U R N E Y I N S I D E T H E V I C T O R I A N R A C I N G I N D U S T R Y CATCH UP AND STREAM FREE WATCH FREE ONLINE UNDER FEATURED DOCUMENTARIES SEARCH ‘HERE FOR THE HORSES - RACING VICTORIA’ W H E R E T O WA T C H D I S C O V E R M O R E & W A T C H T R A I L E R THE STORY BEHIND THE RACE William Samuel Cox
9 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 8 1930, 1931 — Phar Lap “Big Red” Phar Lap becomes the first horse to win successive W.S. Cox Plates. 1922 - Violoncello Violoncello wins the first ever W.S. Cox Plate - run over 1900m with a purse of 1,000 pounds. 1976 — Surround To this day, only one filly has ever won the W.S. Cox Plate – that was the three-year-old Surround. 1966, 1967 — Tobin Bronze Tobin Bronze takes out successive W.S. Cox Plates. There have been 84 individual winners of the W.S. Cox Plate in the last 100 years - and 102 editions of the race. In 1946 there were two editions of the race due to the sheer number of entrants. Take a trip along the timeline as we summarise some of the many notable moments with links to famous race videos. A billboard of the timeline is also installed on the Meeting Place wall at The Valley. 1946 There were two divisions of the W.S. Cox Plate in 1946. The mare Flight won the stronger division having won the previous year, and Leonard won the other at record odds of 50-1. 1957 W.S. Cox Plate Cup replaced with a silver plate trophy due to the high price of gold. 1972 — Gunsynd The W.S. Cox Plate receives more promotion and prizemoney following popular favourite Gunsynd’s win. 1960 — Tulloch Tulloch wins in front of a record crowd of 50,670. 1922-1967 W.S. COX PLATE Timeline
11 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 10 “Kingston Town can’t win!” 1980, 1981, 1982 — Kingston Town After the victory of Kingston Town, trainer Tommy Smith goes on to win a record seven W.S. Cox Plates when Red Anchor wins in 1984. 1986 — Bonecrusher “And Bonecrusher races into equine immortality” 1996 — Saintly “Saintly and Filante in a mighty finish” 1999, 2000 — Sunline ”She might be the greatest in the world, Sunline!” 2001, 2002 — Northerly The 2001 edition is a finish for the ages with protests fired everywhere! 3rd vs 2nd and 1st, and 2nd vs 1st. Both protests are dismissed and Northerly beats Sunline and Viscount. “There’s a protest in the Cox Plate!” 1980-2002 1987 — Prizemoney increases to $1 million. 1998 —Might and Power “The earth begins to rumble”
13 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 12 2020 — Sir Dragonet Glen Boss secures his fourth W.S. Cox Plate aboard Sir Dragonet in Cox Plate 100. 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Winx The Chris Waller-trained mare Winx wins four successive W.S. Cox Plates to cement her Legendary status in Australian and world horse racing. She is crowned the ‘World’s Best Racehorse’ at the Longines Awards in London in 2019. 2005 — Makybe Diva Glen Boss wins his first W.S. Cox Plate on board Makybe Diva. Ten days later, the seven-yearold mare went on to win her third Melbourne Cup. 2012 Introduction of the two-day W.S. Cox Plate Carnival kicking off with the Manikato Stakes Night on the Friday. 2014 Adelaide Adelaide becomes the first internationallytrained runner to win the W.S. Cox Plate. 2021 State Of Rest International star State Of Rest wins a dramatic 101st edition of the race - down the straight and into the stewards’ room. 1980-2002 2009, 2010 So You Think Precocious three-year old So You Think wins his first W.S. Cox Plate in just his fifth career start. He then goes back-to-back in just his tenth career start and gives legendary trainer J.B. Cummings his fifth W.S. Cox Plate victory. 2019 — Lys Gracieux Lys Gracieux becomes the first Japanese horse to win the W.S. Cox Plate.
15 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 14 As we celebrate the Centenary of the W.S. Cox Plate, Surround’s win as a threeyear-old filly in 1976 still stands alone and it might stay that way for a while yet. The 1976 Cox Plate was always going to be a momentous one as it coincided with a total eclipse of the Sun – Surround’s win only made it a more freakish day and one that became enshrined in the memories of anybody who attended that meeting. The course was shrouded in darkness for the entire day, which provided the perfect backdrop for the grey filly when she bounded clear of her rivals on the turn. It’s almost a given that Winx’s historic four Cox Plate wins in a row won’t be matched, and it could well be that Surround’s win in 1976 could also remain unmatched for many years. Her form during that spring is regarded as the best of all time from a three-year-old filly in Australian racing. She was undefeated in seven races and won from distances ranging from 1200m to 2500m. Her winning sequence of ten ended the following year in February. How can you put her form into a modern-day perspective? You can’t. There hasn’t been a threeyear-old filly since to rival what she did during that spring. Her first win in the spring as a three-year-old was in the Ailsa Stakes over 1200m against her own sex By Michael Manley Freakish Filly SURROUND STANDS ALONE IN COX PLATE HISTORY Jockey Peter Cook guides three-year-old filly Surround to victory in the 1976 Cox Plate 4
17 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 16 484 Heidelberg Road, Fairfield VIC 3078 Tel. 9489 7777 128 Denmark Street, Kew VIC 3101 Tel. 9853 6669 380 Copper Street, Epping VIC 3076 Tel. 9409 9999 LMCT 433 www.mb3point.com.au email@example.com 3 Point Motors Proudly family owned and operated for over 60 years. Spring is in the air At 3 Point Motors in Fairfield, Kew and Epping As a proud sponsor of Moonee Valley Racing Club, 3 Point Motors shares the Spring Carnival’s values of passion, performance and elegance. As days become longer and warmer, what better time than to getaway and go for a favourite road trip, or simply to treat yourself with a new Mercedes-Benz driving experience. 3 Point Motors is one of Australia’s longest Mercedes-Benz authorised retailer since 1961, and is proudly family owned and operated for over 60 years. With a large range of new and pre-owned vehicles ready for immediate delivery, competitive trade-in prices, and winner of Mercedes-Benz Circle of Excellence in 2019, 2020 and 2021, 3 Point Motors is your destination of choice for all your Mercedes-Benz needs. MY FAVOURITE COX PLATE MEMORY The third Cox Plate win of Kingston Town in 1982 is still my benchmark Cox Plate. It was a kaleidoscope of colour, drama, noise and action as the big black horse came from what looked an unlikely winning position to win an historic third Cox Plate. and age at Moonee Valley, which would be the first of three wins at the circuit. She took on the boys initially in feature races and kicked off her spring with a win in the Ascot Vale Stakes (now known as the Coolmore Stud Stakes) over 1200m at Flemington in early September. Then was it back to The Valley for the Moonee Valley Stakes (now known as the Bill Stutt Stakes), where her trainer Geoff Murphy was happy to take on the males in her age group to win again. On that occasion, she defeated her stablemate and fellow three-year-old filly Savoir (by Sovereign Edition) with Family Of Man third. Then she thrashed her rivals in the Caulfield Guineas and remains the last filly to win that race as well. Murphy then decided to take on the Cox Plate, but he had to put a different rider on as her regular jockey Alan Trevena couldn’t make the weight. Murphy turned to lightweight Sydney jockey Peter Cook who rode her at 47.5kg. Despite her form and her light weight, the Colin Hayes-trained mare How Now – who had won the Caulfield Cup the week before – was sent out as a $2.75 favourite with Surround second pick at $4.50. Cook positioned Surround in a superb position just off the speed, and she surged to the front before the turn to put the contest to bed. The only interest was her winning margin - which turned out to be three lengths. Surround also took over a second off the course record, recording a time of 2:04.30 seconds which stood until Red Anchor broke it in 1984. Following in her wake was the subsequent Victoria Derby winner Unaware and the Melbourne Cup winner in Van Der Hum. The spring wasn’t over for Surround as she went on to win the VRC Oaks. Now let’s look at how difficult it has proven to be for three-year-old fillies since Surround. Between 1977 and 1990, nine fillies ran in the Cox Plate, and none were placed. Since then, only a handful of three-year-old fillies have tried, with some running big races. In 1992, Slight Chance finished third in one of the most memorable Cox Plates of all time. The Sydneytrained filly took on a field of ageing superstars such as Super Impose, Better Loosen Up and Let’s Elope. In a helter-skelter race marred by interference, Slight Chance boasted a third placing behind Super Impose. She was fourth over the line but protested successfully against Let’s Elope and was promoted to third. Another filly - the 1992 Golden Slipper winner – Burst finished tenth. The next filly to try and win it was the David Hayestrained Miss Finland in 2007 who finished an unlucky fourth behind El Segundo after a poor ride. In 2008, punters sent out the Kris Lees-trained filly Samantha Miss as a $4.50 favourite, after she had made a clean sweep of races against her own sex in Sydney. Her winning streak was five in a row, and she put in a valiant effort to finish third. She made a swooping run and challenged the front runner and eventual winner Maldivian before the turn, but she tired to finish third. The last filly to try was Yankee Rose in 2016 who finished a gallant third 8.75 lengths astern of the super mare Winx in the first of her Cox Plate wins. There’s no question Surround was something special and her legacy in Cox Plate history could live on for many years to come.
19 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 18 By Ben Caluzzi - Media & Content Executive – Racing MY W.S. Cox Plate STORY 2015. Chautauqua’s Manikato into Winx 1 It’s no wonder that racing has stuck to me like Velcro, given the first introduction I received over one unforgettable weekend. I had no connection to racing previously but going to the races was beginning to become trendy, so I did what any other eager young man would do and obliged. It’s Friday 23 October 2015. Manikato Stakes Night. A group of us hopped on the tram down Mount Alexander Road – blissfully unaware of the incredible night ahead of us. “If you’re going to have one bet tonight, back the grey in the Manikato,” dad said. Funny how my memory was hardwired to remember every racingrelated detail since day one. So, there I was like a deer in the headlights of a very busy Moonee Valley bookies ring – it felt like home right away. “Can I have $20 on Chautauqua, please?” “What number, son?” “Oh, number 2.” He knew the number of the horse, obviously. It was favourite for the Group 1, and most of the hold was on him. He was trying to teach me how to place a bet properly. Noted. $20 on at $2.50. It was quite a substantial bet given it was double my hourly wage, but away we went. What then followed was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Watching the grey flash come from an impossible position, circle the field, and win with Tommy Berry saluting high in the irons was something I’ll never forget. I would later learn the hard way that not all horses were Chautauqua, and backmarkers had a lower winning strike rate than those at the front (especially at The Valley), but that took a few years. The next day was Cox Plate Day. We didn’t attend. Tickets were three times the regular price, not to mention I didn’t even have a suit that fitted me at the time. I ducked off to the TAB after lunch, had a small wager, and went to the gym. I backed Criterion because he was the only horse in the field whose name I recognised. I then stood in disbelief in front of the cardio room TVs as Winx put five lengths on him in track record time. We may not get $4.60 about that horse ever again – I thought to myself. And the love affair began. A BIOGRAPHICAL TALE OF PASSION AND CHANCE – HOW THE REMARKABLE FEATS OF WINX MANIFESTED MY LOVE FOR RACING.
21 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 20 2016. Winx 2 By the time the 2016 Spring Carnival rolled around, I was fully engrossed in the great game. My interest in racing was gaining more traction than the Winx vs. Hartnell battle brewing in that year’s upcoming Cox Plate. I’d just experienced my first Caulfield Cup, where we had witnessed star mare Jameka bolt in under Nick Hall. Awesome. The best weekend of the year had rolled around and we were back to The Valley for another memorable Manikato Stakes night. This time it was memorable for the wrong reasons. Carnage, strip out. Eager and chomping at the bit, we committed the cardinal sin of losing most of our bank on Cox Plate Eve. Lesson two learned. Rebel Dane miraculously won the Maniakto at 60-1, and we were defeated men. We walked down Puckle St, tail between our legs, and made the executive decision to call Saturday off. “We’re not going tomorrow.” We spat the dummy, and rightly so. Entry into Cox Plate Day was all our money, so we figured staying home and trying to double it was a better strategy. Wrong again. A heavy dump of rainfall came on Cox Plate Day, just as we were about to head to the TAB. So we decided to stay home and sat down to watch the Channel 7 coverage. The great mare Winx was looking for back-to-back Cox Plates, up against Godolphin’s new poster boy Hartnell – who had toweled up the coming Caulfield Cup winner Jameka in the Turnbull. It was built as a match race and looked that way for most of those two special minutes. “But the two champs go together at the 600 metres. Hartnell’s hit the front, Winx is going with him, and they’ve turned it on! The great race is on here!” Greg Miles bellowed from the caller’s box. No sooner had Miles built up the spectacle, the race was over. Winx went past him under a vicelike Hugh Bowman grip, and it was lights out. “But this is a blitz. It’s a Winx blitz! Two in a row, and she joins the all-time greats of the turf.” We would later learn that the winning call from Greg Miles had come from a simple conversation at the urinal earlier that day.
23 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 22 “How do you think the race will go today?” Miles asked a friend. “I think she’ll blitz them,” he replied. Even in his very last race call in a Cox Plate, Miles still had that adaptive brilliance until the end. After winning in record time in 2015, Winx won the 2016 addition by a record margin of eight lengths. Somehow, we managed to take the $1.80, but it wasn’t enough to put us in the party spirit. “The house party is off. No one is coming over tonight.” MO NE VAL EY RACING CLUB Winx was aiming for a record-equalling third Cox Plate and we were riding the wave all the way. We had witnessed Winx winning the Turnbull by a lousy six-and-a-half lengths, and we weren’t missing the Ladbrokes Cox Plate this time around. That win in the Turnbull is still the easiest Group 1 win I’ve ever seen. The applause for Winx broke out at the 500-metre mark as it became apparent that she was travelling better than her moderate opposition and up went win number 21 in the most destructive fashion. Perhaps not in the moderate camp was Darren Weir’s Humidor, who ran a distant third in the Turnbull but would go on to give Winx – and her legion of fans like us – the fright of our lives three weeks later. Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day came around, and you couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sun was shining, the track was playing fast, and 32,000 packed into The Valley to witness Winx emulate the feats of the great Kingston Town and win her third Cox Plate in a row. Surely, it was a foregone conclusion that she would simply win that day. After an SP of $4.60 in 2015 and $1.80 in 2016, she began at $1.18 here, and her nearest opposition was $19 – the three-year-old Royal Symphony. It all appeared to be going smoothly throughout the run, and Bowman was riding her with supreme confidence – possibly even too much confidence – as he hooked her threewide running line at the halfway point. He was weary of not being trapped in behind tiring horses, and he knew Winx had a superior ability to travel at top gear far longer than Gailo Chop and Folkswood, who sat one-two. What Hugh may not have realised was that Blake Shinn was stalking Winx on board Humidor. Blake was riding high, having already ridden four winners from six, including the old boy Lucky Hussler in the Crystal Mile and popular veteran Who Shot Thebarman in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup. “We’ve waited 35 years for this!” Matt Hill said as Winx took the lead. In his first Cox Plate call, I’m sure Matt Hill had been waiting his turn to deliver the punch line when Winx would surely win too. My phone went up, and I hit the record button, squeezed between patrons on the fence line as The Valley burst into hysteria. But just as Winx looked certain of victory, Blake Shinn pulled Humidor to the outside and started closing in on the champ. It was unheralded. We had never seen a horse come from behind and make ground on Winx. The heart skipped a few beats. A few expletives sounded from the crowd. The phone stopped tracking the horses, and I turned my attention to the big screen. She holds on by half a length. Phew. The blue streamers make a loud bang, and the stunned crowd performs the myoclonic jerk in unison. Humidor runs the race of his life with one of the greatest losing rides – denied by a champion. Winx doesn’t just win. She breaks her own track record, running 2:02.94 while parked three wide. Not only that, but Bowman also still has time to stand up and celebrate on the line despite a close finish. The queen joins the king in the three-time club. Freakish. 2017 – Winx 3
25 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 24 The 2018 Ladbrokes Cox Plate wasn’t just a race. It was a blockbuster event, and everyone wanted a piece. There were hats, flags, t-shirts, jumpers, and even a special batch of Carlton Draught cans – all painted in the blue and white Magic Bloodstock colours of Winx. Hugh Bowman, pilot of Winx, had steered Brave Smash to victory in the Manikato the night before, and his eye was in. Tickets sold out earlier than they ever had. After missing the boat initially, we were extremely thankful to find someone selling extras for retail price soon after. We duly scanned. Green lights all round. Good start. We hadn’t been given fake tickets and we were in without fuss. The Racing.com crew was doing the rounds, capturing the festivities of the crowd and the admiration for Winx, and unsurprisingly my friends threw me in the gun and nominated me to face up on camera. Rather than give a corny “Go Winx” message, I offered a race prediction. “She will go straight past Benbatl at the 300-metre mark, and she’ll win by three lengths hard held.” I wasn’t far off at all. 2018 – Winx 4 Benbatl was a worthy opponent for Winx. He was a three-time Group 1 winning entire, trained out of the powerful Dubai Godolphin operation with trainer Saeed Bin Suroor at the helm. He had just beaten fellow Godolphin raider Blair House in the Caulfield Stakes, with Humidor back in third. Adding to the drama of the 2018 Cox Plate was well-known UK broadcaster Matt Chapman, who did his best to stir the pot. Chapman said Winx was beating fairly moderate horses. However arguable that may be, the tone in which he spoke of her did ruffle some feathers. It wasn’t exactly the 2016 Winx vs. Hartnell buildup, but he was the best horse she’d faced in some time and started $10 second elect from a shorter opening quote – pushing her price out to $1.24. A crowd of 38,035 packed into The Valley to witness history. It worked out perfectly. Benbatl went forward and sat in the one-one, while Winx sat in behind him, some two lengths further back. Each horse was going to get their chance, and it was simply down to the best horse winning. After upping the tempo, D’argento and Rostropovich began to weaken. Benbatl went past them, but just as soon as he did, Winx was already on the scene, striding to the lead with supreme confidence. “And The Valley roars!” said Matt Hill as Bowman slipped the great mare a little more leather. It was never in doubt, but Benbatl, to his credit, did go with her for a few strides in the straight to make it interesting. “Greatness. Winx has done it. It’s equine utopia,” Hill added. A direct reference and a one-up on Bill Collin’s “Races into equine immortality” call after Bonecrusher defeated Our Waverley Star in the Race of the Century. The 300-metre mark prediction was right, but the margin was two lengths, not three. Still, hard held. Bang. This time we were a little more prepared for the streamers, which were a welcome celebratory touch. The party had started. She’d done it. The first horse in history to win the W.S. Cox Plate four times. Something we’ll never forget and something we’ll likely never see again. So, what would follow the Winx era? What next? An empty feeling settled in after the Carnival. We must have forgotten that we were talking about the Cox Plate.
27 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 26 Enter the Japanese. In 2006 they ran one-two in the Melbourne Cup with Delta Blues and Pop Rock. In 2014 they had Admire Rakti win the Caulfield Cup, and a week before the 2019 Cox Plate, they had another Caulfield Cup winner in Mer De Glace – ridden by Damian Lane. The only one of the big three that Japan hadn’t won was the Weight-For-Age Championship, the Ladbrokes Cox Plate. That was about to change. The Ladbrokes Cox Plate boost was introduced in 2019. An additional $1M would be on offer if a horse could win one of 13 local races and then win the Cox Plate. Furthermore, two international Group 1’s, the Takarazuka Kinen in Japan and the Juddmonte International in the UK, carried a bonus payout of $2M. At this stage, I worked at The Junction Club in Moonee Ponds, mainly in the TAB, which the Moonee Valley Racing Club owns. With a few helping hands, I was able to pester my way in to get some work experience. My CV was bare, but I was keen to showcase my passion for racing. Lys Gracieux won the Takarazuka Kinen with our own Damian Lane aboard. The invitation went out to Japan, and she was $26 quickly into $7 for the Cox Plate as soon as Yoshito Yahagi accepted. $7 was still overs. Despite a capacity field of 14, the first since Winx’s maiden Cox Plate in 2015, the stunning jet-black mare was backed in from $3.80 into $2.50 on race day. It remains one of the biggest Cox Plate plunges we have ever seen, and had the race started any later, she might’ve been pushed into the red. Her opposition included Avilius, Mystic Journey, Te Akau Shark, Magic Wand, the three-yearold Castelvecchio, and Verry Elleegant, who was still far from the finished product. Without disrespecting those good horses – she was simply better than them. She had form around the 2019/20 Hong Kong horse of Year Exultant, and she was coming 2019 – Lys Gracieux off a three-length demolition job in one of the best Group 1 races worldwide. Her form, her looks, and her presence in the mounting yard before the Cox Plate set punters off. We were lucky enough to snag members’ tickets on Cox Plate Day through The Junction – Moonee Valley Racing Club connection. We set up camp on the far-right side of the grandstand, a luxury we’d never been afforded on Cox Plate Day, and prepared for the best two minutes in sport. She got back in the run from the wide gate, and the speed was on. A genuinely run Cox Plate always ensures the best horse wins – and this day was no different. Approaching the home turn, the lone three-year-old Castelvecchio slipped two lengths clear. It was an inch-perfect ride by Craig Williams, and he may have thought the race was his, but here came the mare. It was like an Airbus A380 descending on a microjet. She didn’t handle the turn at all well, laying in on little Castelvecchio as she swallowed him whole, but she still won with an absolute leg in the air. “Lys Gracieux stomps up! And the Land of the Rising Sun wins the Cox Plate!” Matt Hill exclaimed. Japan conquered the Cox Plate for the first time, and Lys Gracieux took home $5M in prizemoney. $3M for first prize and a $2M bonus – still the biggest prizemoney split owners have won in Australia. We knew we’d witnessed something special again, and Lys Gracieux returned to Japan and re-affirmed her status when bolting in with another Group 1, the Arima Kinen. That win gave her the Japanese Horse of the Year for 2019/20, over fellow superstar mare Almond Eye who won in 2018/19 and would again in 2020/21. Lys Gracieux was unbeatable that Spring. She might’ve even been the best horse in the world. At the very least, she is the best international I’ve ever seen in Australia.
29 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 28 Corona? Like the beer Corona? Ha! That will never affect us. We weren’t the only ones who thought like this in early 2020, but just how wrong we were. Early on that year in March saw the second edition of the All-Star Mile held at Caulfield. Owner Bob Peters’ pair Regal Power and Superstorm ran the quinella, and that’s the earliest memory I have of crowds not being let into a sporting event. It was a late decision too, which only added to the drama. Lockdowns became the new norm, and watching the races at home was the only thing that kept us sane. So, what would the 100th running of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate be like without any crowds… any atmosphere? Russian Camelot was the new star on the scene for Danny O’Brien, but he had his colours lowered by Western Australian mare Arcadia Queen in the Caulfield Stakes – a great year for the cerise and white. Adding to that was New Zealand star Probabeel, Group 1 milers Fierce Impact and Kolding, the old boy Humidor, and rising star Mugatoo. Coupled with two impressive imports, Armory and Sir Dragonet, we looked set for the most evenly matched Cox Plate field since Adelaide’s win in 2014. I was still at The Junction Club, but getting into work had reached a complete standstill. It was going to be the first Cox Plate I couldn’t attend since Winx 3, but I couldn’t do much about it. No one could. Soon my fortunes were about to change. For their 21 August meeting, the Moonee Valley Racing Club put a call out for extra track staff. An opportunity arose to fix divots between races. Mask on, boots on, and put the loose dirt back into the ground. Sounds good. Not good. The rain came in sideways, and the divots were irreparable. The surface water was up to our ankles, and the horses came in at Melbourne Cup-like intervals. Some handled the heavy-going, but most didn’t. Roland Garros, now a jumper, was one who did. “Finally,” one of the permanent staff muttered after the meeting was abandoned post the fifth race. 2020 – Sir Dragonet Some experience as a first day out on the track. It deterred a lot of casuals, but I went again. I didn’t actually think we’d be required on Cox Plate Day; it didn’t even come into my thought process – but sure enough, October came around, and the email for volunteers was still sent our way. You mean I get to come to the Cox Plate, and I don’t have to stay home and isolate? Sign me up now! So, there you have it. I was there on Cox Plate Day along with a few co-workers who also pulled beer and punched in bets for a living, and we were just happy to be there. Well, I know I was. Hey Doc won his second Manikato the night prior in track record time. The track staff had opted not to water on the Friday with heavy rain scheduled throughout the evening. It was bordering a Firm 2, but it proved to be the right decision. The rain finally came overnight and in the morning – 25mm of it to be precise. It pushed the track into the Soft 7 range but had they watered the day before, it would’ve been a Heavy 9 or worse. The punters got it right again. Russian Camelot started clear favourite, but the late money came in spades for Sir Dragonet. $11 into $7.50 officially on the day, and he beat home Coolmore-owned Armory, the favourite in third and Mugatoo in fourth to round out an all-Irish bred first four. “Sir Dragonet takes the lead, coming clear, and joins a century of legends,” nailed by Matt Hill as usual. We couldn’t see the winning post because we were doing the back straight at the Pattison Street end. We had to settle with the delayed coverage on our phones to catch the final 200 metres. We saw Bossy salute high in the irons on racing. com, and suddenly he appeared in our vision. Overcome with emotion, a pickup ride from a suspended Hugh Bowman turned into a fourth Cox Plate. Bossy looked to the sky and shook his head in disbelief. He then gave Sir Dragonet a pat. “Yeahhh Bossy!” We all yelled as we gave our fist of support. He did it back. What a man – what a moment. Millions of eyes watching on TV, and there we were – exchanging smiles with a Cox Plate legend.
31 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 30 At the beginning of 2021, I was fortunate to be given a full-time position at the MVRC. The more accomplished employee who occupied the role before me was off to Racing.com, and it was a matter of right place, right time. I was ecstatic to tell you the truth. It was a dream come true and the happiest I’d been in so long. Mugatoo defeated Russian Camelot in a cracking edition of the All-Star Mile. Willy Pike weaved his way through for a thrilling victory in the William Reid on Masked Crusader. And that just whet the appetite for what promised to be a terrific Spring with crowds back. Crowds weren’t back. Unfortunately, Covid-19 struck again. Lockdowns were enforced. For the second year running, the Ladbrokes Cox Plate Carnival would proceed behind closed doors. It was disappointing – but the show had to go on, and our job was to make it as good a show as can be. The horses did it for us. There was Zaaki – the horse from the UK who had resurrected himself as a weight-for-age star; ten-time Group 1 winner Verry Elleegant; talented Zabeel entire Mo’unga; New Zealand’s Cambridge Stud star Probabeel; smart Godolphin colt Anamoe; fourth placegetter in the Arc Gold Trip; and the Irish raider State Of Rest. Only a field of 10, but the quality at the top of the page oozed class in every direction. On the Thursday before the Cox Plate, racing officials deemed the French import Gold Trip lame, and he was scratched. We would soon learn it was just the beginning of a drama-filled weekend. 2021 – State Of Rest Jonker took home the Manikato with an all-theway victory for Tony Gollan, with Daniel Moor claiming his second Group 1 at The Valley. The alarm went off on Saturday morning, and major drama number two hit us square in the face. I opened Twitter – the race favourite is out. Zaaki has been scratched with an elevated temperature on Cox Plate morning. Scratchings don’t get any bigger than that. So, 10 was down to eight. The French horse was out, and the warm favourite was diagnosed with a cold. 5pm came around fast. We went to the mounting yard, and the stars of the show did their rehearsal. In the meantime, a terrific betting war was going on between three-year-old Anamoe and the mare Verry Elleegant. Enough rain had fallen to push the track into the soft range, and both horses were adept in the conditions. They went to the barriers equal $3.60 favourites – inseparable. “After a dramatic week, Australia’s Best Race is about to get underway,” Hill said as the last horse loaded into the barrier. The gates crash back, and the bell rings. The speed is on, and the field string out some ten lengths. The lesser chances are at the front, with the eventual first four sitting in the final quartet of running. The leading division begins to tire as the whips start to crack, and the fancied runners emerge. “Running through them – State Of Rest!” The Irish horse, ridden by Ireland’s John Allen, goes to the lead and boots a length clear. Verry Elleegant circles them, giving her all as usual, but wobbles around the turn and loses ground. Anamoe makes no such mistake and takes inside runs to challenge for the lead. Toe-to-toe. Blow for blow. We hold our breath as the thundering hooves get louder, cannonballing down the straight. State Of Rest holds on by half a head. But the race is far from over. After colliding at the 200-metre mark, Craig Williams on Anamoe fires in a protest. Drama #3. A lengthy deliberation proceeds. With no cameras allowed in the steward’s room due to the restrictions, the media is left to peep through the blinds as each camp states their case. Not ideal, but it adds to the drama even more. Two of us are in charge of the social media for the day. I draft up the “Protest upheld” tweet, and my colleague types the “Protest dismissed” version. It can go either way. We wait patiently. Millions of eyes are watching on TV, and still no decision. The horses for race 10 are already parading. After a 30-minute enquiry, the protest is finally dismissed, and State Of Rest is crowned champ. ‘DISMISSED! STATE OF REST wins the 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate!’ The Tweet reads. Our phones blow up. Trainer Joseph O’Brien joins his father Aidan O’Brien on the honour roll – Aidan being the first to train an international winner of the race with Adelaide in 2014. “Johnny, can I get a quick photo with you?” I say like an annoying little kid as we walk down the tunnel. He’s just survived a protest and won his first major, but it’s an opportunity I can’t miss. He says sure. I clench my fist and smile, and then he does too. Both of us have our masks on – but the smiles are evident. Another wonderful Cox Plate moment is stored in an ever-growing memory bank. We enjoy the night, acknowledging just how fortunate we are to be a part of it. It’s not long before we start thinking about the Centenary Cox Plate with a full grandstand in 2022. Now that will be something.
33 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 32 Indulge yourself
35 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 34 By MVRC Staff KERRY GILLESPIE – First past the post Kerry was also the first female Committee member of the MVRC in 1997 and the first female to be awarded Life Membership in 2013. A quite remarkable lady of racing, with whom we are honoured to be associated. We caught up with Kerry recently to capture just a few of the many fond, funny and fascinating memories she has of the Cox Plate. When it comes to racing firsts, Kerry Gillespie has tasted the sweet victory of W.S. Cox Plate success as co-owner of Fields of Omagh in 2003 and 2006, and she has also been the driving force behind many of today’s most important industry initiatives. A CV WITHOUT EQUAL 1983 Founded tours by public and schools at VRC on racedays 1997 First female Committee member of the MVRC 1999 Co-founder of the Might & Power room at the MVRC (first owners’ room on raceday) 2000 Co-founder of Australian Racing Hall of Fame 2000 Awarded Lady in Racing 2000 Vice Chairman of Australian Racing Museum 2002 – 2006 Co-owner of Fields of Omagh 2006 Co-founder of Living Legends 2007 Introduced the first interstate female jockey challenge 2013 First female Life Member of the MVRC 2013 International Cox Plate Ambassador (Mull of Killough) 2006 Fields of Omagh FOO was only one of two horses to ever compete in five consecutive Cox Plates (Tranquil Star being the other), and he was winner of two of them and placed in the other three. We started Living Legends from him after his second victory in 2006. That win was a surprise. He walked onto the course that day with his neck stretched up to the sky, looking like he owned it. Being a heavy horse, he loved The Valley as the track was always kind to his legs. During the race, he was back last which was not his pattern. I was beside breeder Martin O’Connor and recall telling him that FOO can’t win. But Craig Williams pulled him out wide and he swooped to victory. 1976 Surround That day is etched in my memory as the day that we had a total eclipse over Melbourne. It was such a unique day 1996 Saintly I was there that day as a spectator – and I will never forget that finish between Saintly, Filante and Gai’s All Our Mob. Saintly had the biggest eye that day. I almost felt he winked over to us as he crossed the line to say, “I’ve got this!”. 2003 Fields of Omagh When FOO beat the horse of the year Lonhro to win his first Cox Plate, everyone was rightly referencing how the recently departed Jack Ingham would have been up in heaven fighting for his colt Lonhro to win. My husband had also just died, and I remember thinking, “well, both were fighting up there about who was going to win!” 1998 Might and Power He blitzed the field that day from the front. I was always in awe of his curious running action – how he pounded the turf with his near foreleg swinging. He looked like he was stirring a bowl. "He looked like he was st irring a bowl." 2005 Makybe Diva As the field approached the corner near the old Tabaret building, I remember thinking this is going to be interesting. Every horse was making its run at that same time. I recall the amazing photograph taken of the field stretched across the track near the school.
37 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 36 ANAMOE The son of Street Boss is now a 6-time Group 1 winner, and the champion tag is brewing. From his three runs this preparation, he has won the Winx Stakes, George Main Stakes and the Might And Power. Godolphin have still never won the Ladbrokes Cox Plate, and Anamoe will be favourite to make amends for his unlucky defeat last year. He is quickly becoming a bombproof colt and will have the world’s best jockey James McDonald on board. ZAAKI Zaaki has taken Australia by storm since his arrival, and he was the Weight For Age star of Season 2021/22. Scratched with a high temperature on Cox Plate morning last year, he too will be looking for redemption on October 22. He has been slowly building his fitness base with great third placed efforts in both the Underwood Stakes and Might And Power, and Jamie Kah is sure to let the sparks fly on Grand Final Day. I’M THUNDERSTRUCK It will be impossible to miss I’m Thunderstruck in the mounting yard on Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day. The baldy faced stable star of Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr. has improved again in his fiveyear-old year, and his elite turn of foot would rival any horse in Australia. He ticked the 2000 metre box with a second placed effort in the Might And Power, and he will be eating up the ground late in the Cox Plate. LADBROKES COX PLATE EL BODEGON Internationals have won the last three Ladbrokes Cox Plates, and all three were having their first run off the plane which is the equation the ex. UK trained horse faces. Now in the hands of champion trainer Chris Waller, El Bodegon boasts form around star Europeans Vadeni, Onesto and Melbourne Cup favourite Deauville Legend. He may be only small in stature, but his form is good enough to mix it with the big boys down under. MR BRIGHTSIDE When Ben & JD Hayes inherited Lindsay Park from their father, champion trainer David Hayes, Mr Brightside was just the horse they needed to put them on the map. He defeated I’m Thunderstruck to win the Doncaster Mile back in April, and his victory in the Clamms Seafood Feehan Stakes confirmed his position in the Cox Plate. He is unbeaten at The Valley, and he carries the Hayes colours made famous by 1990 Cox Plate champion Better Loosen Up. ALLIGATOR BLOOD The resurrection of Alligator Blood has been something to behold. Dominant at three but outed with injury for nearly a year, Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott have him back and remarkably, have him racing in career best form. He has picked up the Stradbroke Handicap and Underwood Stakes since his arrival at the powerhouse stable, and he will be on top of the speed with Tim Clark, one of the best front-running jockeys in Australia in the saddle.
39 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 38 Super Impose (left) charges past Let’s Elope (white cap) who tightens Better Loosen Up, which in turn gives Kinjite and Prince Salieri the shorten up The Ladbrokes Cox Plate rightly carries the attachment as “Legendary.” The weight-for-age championship of the southern hemisphere, the greatest two minutes in sport, and loads more all get rolled out in generalisations but nonetheless worthy nods to a race that showcases the best equine talent of its season. Only good horses win it and plenty of good ones don’t. An argument will always exist, if nothing more than bar room banter or data-based supposedly intellectual deep diving, into who has been the best, and that too keeps the intrigue of the Cox Plate bubbling endlessly, but of course, there is no definitive answer. What is without dispute is that the 1986 edition was – not just the race of the century, but the race of Cox Plate history as Bonecrusher raced into equine immortality, photo-finishing out Our Waverley Star in a last-man-standing slugfest. And what is also without question is that the 1992 field of 14 not only brought together the best lineup ever to be assembled, but that they provided the most dramatic of stories to defy script and billing. The Valley and its Cox Plate Day Colosseum By Bruce Clark MEMORIES OF THE W.S. COX PLATE 1992 -Super Impose atmosphere lends itself to such fabulous theatre. And like any big show, it needs its stars. But here we had a bevy of leading actors as well as an actress. There were no supporting roles required in this feature – 13 of the 14 that went to battle were group 1 winners. Collectively, the squad of 14 had won a record (at the time) $28m in prizemoney going into it. This was some cast of equine heroes. Naturalism had top billing with the punters, though. An AJC Derby winner coming off effortless Memsie, Feehan and Turnbull Stakes wins – where, dare I say it, all he had to do was stand up to win. But racing is racing. Anything can happen, especially when you have Better Loosen Up, Let’s Elope, Rough Habit, Muirfield Village, Slight Chances, Sydeston, Mannerism, Slight Chance, Kinjite, Coronation Day, Burst and the reigning Caulfield Guineas winner in Palace Reign. (And I’ve left one out for later). Many of them since elevated to Hall of Famers – regaled today but absolute household names then. Imagine getting them together before a bubbling expectant crowd at The Valley for a championship bout? And that it was, going the full distance too. Well, you’d know that Palace Reign fell around the 600m, brought down Naturalism over the top to the groans of rider Mick Dittman and an astonished crowd, Sydeston lost the rider and Rough Habit was put out of play. But that wasn’t the end of it. Who was left was dusting themselves for a flurry to the wire and that’s what it was. Horses and riders went in all directions, almost a win-at-all-costs, with horses used to winning and willing to win against the odds. Turning in, it could have been Let’s Elope or Better Loosen Up. Even a case for points to Prince Salieri. In the end, though, it was Super Impose, old Super, eight, off a Canberra Cup win, hardly the normal formline into a Cox Plate. And with Greg Hall, as he says, “picking up the crumbs” for his first ride on the legend. They saved the race from disaster. While all else was going on inside them, Super did what Super had done best through a long and marvellous career, chased victory and that he did. “I remember I had instructions from Anthony (Freedman) to ‘go at the squash courts.’ Well, I got to the milk bar, saw some tennis courts, couldn’t find the squash courts, so I just took off,” Hall said. “I had an owner ring me the night before telling me that Super didn’t like the whip. I don’t reckon I missed a spot on him in the last 250m. It was my only ride on the old horse. I’d been pestering Lee (Freedman) to give me a chance. I got it and took it,” said Hall, who says he had also been offered Let’s Elope after taking the Super Impose booking. There was more pandemonium, protests everywhere. Better Loosen Up (Simon Marshall) was fourth over the line, and successfully protested against Let’s Elope (Greg Childs) as the crowd and all concerned were trying to digest what they had just witnessed. Many of the players were perhaps in career twilights. Super Impose would only race once more – finishing 15th in a Melbourne Cup. But they knew how to put on a show. And some show it was – all playing their parts and a fitting hero achieving legendary status in the process. Even if Super didn’t need the Cox Plate to underline that, Better Loosen Up, Let’s Elope, Roughie and co, lost nothing by taking part in the best Cox Plate line-up ever assembled and the most vividly recalled of races in history. So whatever the final make-up of the field that takes to The Valley on October 22, they will have earned their spot and place in the elite Cox Plate honour roll of carefully selected stars. But they will have done so in the ghosts of the superstars that were there in 1992 – a race etched in the pantheon of not just Cox Plate history but Australian racing folklore. To catch more horse racing pieces from Bruce Clark, please head to Racenet.
41 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 40 Trainer John Hawkes shows his affection for his W.S. Cox Plate winner Octagonal in 1995.
43 MOONEE VALLEY RACING CLUB 42 As we look forward to the Centenary of Australia’s Best Race, we sat down with some of Australia’s best racing, sporting, and media personalities to hear about their triumphs and recollections of pivotal moments in their career – and of course, their W.S. Cox Plate memories LADBROKES COX PLATE CENTENARY Podcast Series “THE VOICE OF THE COX PLATE” When I am calling three race meetings a week in the spring into the summer, we don’t just rock up and work. MATT HILL A good four or five hours of preparation for each meeting goes in first. And I love that time just in the office at home going through all the horses, learning about them, the narratives of each race, doing the videos and the form. I quite enjoy that part of it. You can’t possibly rock up and perform at your best if you haven’t done the preparation prior. Download and listen to the complete series here: I moved across to the cricket academy in Adelaide. Our monthly allowance at that time was $40 a month – that’s what we got paid to live there. Doing the maths in my head I though I’ve got to find a way to turn this $40 into a bit more or I’m not going to get through here. So, I’d sneak down the local TAB on a Monday night, then a Tuesday afternoon, then a Thursday night… Australia's Best Race 4x COX PLATE CHAMPION She had won two Melbourne Cups, she’d won a heap of good races, Australian Cups, Tancred Stakes, and she’d beaten them all up. But Lee Freedman who was training her said the one thing that will define her going forwards when she retires is that to call her an absolute champion, we have to win the Ladbrokes Cox Plate. GLEN BOSS “PUNTER” RICKY PONTING Frank Ritchie Graeme Rogerson Dave & Lance O’Sullivan Craig Bellamy Noel Harris Mark Walker Michael Browell Lizzie Jelfs