Winx-less Cox Plate attracts plenty of contenders
WINX'S retirement and a record $5million in prizemoney has prompted local and international trainers to flood the Cox Plate with almost 200 nominations.
Now at stud, Winx dominated every aspect of Australasia's weight-for-age championship from 2015-18, deterring rivals from both hemispheres during an unsurpassed four-year reign.
In her absence, Valley officials are delighted with 187 nominations, the largest entry since 225 in 2014 - the year before Winx's staggering rule started.
Winx's dominance saw the entries steadily thin for the Cox Plate, from 173 in 2015 to 135 last year.
This year's Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck is among 27 international entries, while current favourite Mystic Journey heads the local entry along with Avilius.
Aidan O'Brien, who claimed the Cox Plate in 2014 with Adelaide, has entered 11 horses, including tough Royal Ascot winner Circus Maximus and fellow Group 1 winners Japan and Hermosa.
"To win a Cox Plate, you need a horse with plenty of tactical speed that gets a mile-and-a-quarter well (2000m)," O'Brien said.
"We have entered 11 horses that we think might suit the race, but of course some of them don't always progress as well as we were hoping.
"But Anthony Van Dyck and Circus Maximus are two very hardy colts with good tactical speed, and both should handle nice ground.
"It's probably too early at this stage to say who our number one seed is, we usually nominate a number of horses and then we will see how they progress from now."
Chris Waller has entered 23 horses, including Verry Elleegant and Arcadia Queen, as he chases a fifth successive Cox Plate.
Lindsay Park has 22 nominations.
A total of 48 three-year-olds - some unraced - are among 160 Australasian entrants, including Group 1-winning colts Prince Fawaz and Castelvecchio.
O'Brien's son Joseph, who trained Rekindling to Melbourne Cup (3200m) glory two years ago, has also entered four horses, with three of them - Latrobe, Master Of Reality and Buckhurst - owned by Lloyd Williams.
Racing Victoria will seek dispensation from the Australian government to allow Lys Gracieux to contest the race.
Under current quarantine rules, Lys Gracieux will not have served the mandatory 180-day quarantine term by Cox Plate day on October 26 after racing in Hong Kong in April.
Kluger and Danceteria's connections have accepted invitations to run in the Cox Plate.
Mystic Journey's trainer Adam Trinder is upbeat after his star mare after a soft trial win on Tuesday as he looks to return to the Valley.
"It's been a long-range plan with Mystic Journey, and while there's still a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and October 26th, hopefully the plan can come to fruition," he said.
"It will be interesting to see the make-up of the field, but I'm sure it will be an incredibly competitive race as always with a very strong local and international presence.
"There will be nowhere to hide, and we just hope that our filly can match up.
First declarations for the Cox Plate will be taken on September 10.
Journey on track for Plate mission
Cox Plate favourite Mystic Journey has won her second barrier trial at Devonport this campaign as she closes in on her new season return.
The Australian Guineas and All-Star Mile winner had been scheduled to make her return in the Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield last month but Tasmanian trainer Adam Trinder elected hold her back because of a rain-affected track.
Instead, Mystic Journey had an 800m barrier trial at Devonport on Tuesday in preparation for her expected return in the Group 2 PB Lawrence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday week.
Mystic Journey had three rivals in Tuesday's hit-out on the synthetic track and sat back in the heat before cruising up on the outside under apprentice Chris Graham to beat I'm Wesley by a short head, with Gee Gee Double Dee a half-head away third.
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