It is said that the Melbourne Cup is for the people and the Cox Plate is for the purist. The weight for age championship of Australia at Moonee Valley will be run this weekend and I thought I would go through my Top 5 Cox Plates from the last 20 years.
It is a race that rarely lets the crowd down as a spectacle. With the punters very close to the course and the race right on from the 1000m mark, the Valley explodes with noise as another champion joins the legends of past winners.
So here it is, my top 5 from 1996 – 2016.
Might And Power – 1998
Joined Rising Fast to become the only horse to win two cups and the plate and in doing so broke the course record. His form was questioned in the lead up races however a strong win in the Caulfield Stakes saw him installed as a warm favourite. Taken straight to the front by “The Pumper” Jim Cassidy he didn’t let his legion of fans down.
Makybe Diva – 2005
Having tasted defeat in her two previous races here, there were questions if the Valley might be The Diva’s undoing as it had been to previous champs. Already a huge crowd favourite with back to back cups under her belt she was well supported in betting and was sent out as the even money favourite. On turning for home she was eight wide in a ten horse wall and the race was well and truly on now, that is one of my lasting memories of the race. She proved her class and champion qualities responding and running away with it. She then went on to claim her third successive Melbourne Cup a little over a week later.
Saintly – 1996
The horse from heaven scored in one of the most exciting finishes in the Plates history. The image left of this race is the group of 4 champions driving to the line at the 100m mark (Filante, All Our Mob, Juggler & Saintly). Each of the jockeys riding for dear life. In a stirring finish the chestnut Saintly proving just too strong at the end of 2040m. Saintly went on to win the Melbourne Cup just 10 days later. The 1996 edition summed up everything great about horse racing champions in titanic struggles.
Northerly – 2001
Northerly had strong form leading into the event winning his past 3 starts including a narrow victory over Sunline who was short priced favourite in the Feehan. Sunline bounced back the following start in the Turnbull so the stage was set and these two champions did not let us down. Northerly looked under extreme pressure before the turn with Sunline and Viscount looking to be going better however lifted under the urgings of Oliver. The 3yo Viscount who was specked in betting and the two champs all came together at the 100m to cause big interference. Protests were lodged and all were dismissed and Northerly controversially retained the race.
Winx – 2016
The Winx v Hartnell clash of the century it was touted. Winx had continued her all conquering run leading into the event however her nearest rival at the time Hartnell was destroying top class fields in Melbourne. Maybe just maybe away from Sydney and with Hartnell flying, the great mare might have met her match. In what was described by one very astute punter “This is the best performance I have seen in my time in punting” the result was Winx first and daylight second. Winx won by a running away 8 length margin in a brutal display.