The problem with the Cox Plate is the great stories are almost endless. In reviewing the greatest moments of our best race, there aren’t a heap of editions that couldn’t be included for one reason or another.
So in a “by-no-means-exhaustive” effort, I’ve put together just some of the magical moments that Moonee Valley has played host to on its premier day. Rest assured, there’s plenty of others.
And in 2018? We may just see the first ever four-time champion.
1979: Fleeting greatness
Dulcify might be racing’s Hendrix or Cobain: a superstar gone far too soon, perhaps before we’d seen the best. As a four-year-old in 1979, Dulcify had the Victoria Derby, ATC Derby, Rosehill Guineas, Australian Cup and Turnbull Stakes to his name.
The Cox Plate expectations were huge and as always, he delivered on the big stage. Starting 7-4 favourite, jockey Brent Thomson didn’t even need his whip as his charge broke away at the 800-metre mark to win by seven lengths.
He won the Mackinnon a week later, before entering the Melbourne Cup as red-hot favourite. Tragedy would strike when contact in the run resulted in a broken pelvis. The champion was put to rest that night.
1982: “Kingston Town can’t win…”
Aiming to be the first horse to win three Cox Plates, Kingston Town never looked comfortable throughout – least of all at about the 500-metre mark, with Peter Cook giving him everything and Bill Collins muttering the famous words…
1986: The Race of the Century
The two Kiwi beasts, Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star, stage what many class as the greatest two-horse battle ever fought on the Australian turf. The breathless, straining call of the great Collins (such was the action, he was virtually unable to take a breath for the final minute of the race) provides the perfect soundtrack, and he manages to spit out one of the iconic lines in Australian racing history with his last effort.
1990: Better Hurry Up
Leader Stylish Century set a scorching pace in 1990, and by the halfway point was over ten lengths clear of the rest of the field – where 2-1 favourite Better Loosen Up was bringing up the rear.
At around the 1000-metre mark, David Hayes’ superstar was out of the camera frame and estimated to be up to thirty lengths from the leader. Stylish Century was gassed, and started to come back to the pack, which was overtaken completely in a herculean effort by the favourite.
He’d find the line in time to add a Cox Plate to his impressive resume. He’d soon add the Mackinnon, as well as the Japan Cup.
1992: Cox Plate Carnage
The infamous 1992 edition had enough stories to fill a book of its own. The 14-horse field, full of giant names of the turf, kept things relatively quiet until the 600-metre mark, when all hell broke loose.
Hot favourite Naturalism tumbled to the turf, throwing Mick Dittman right into the thick of the mob. Palace Reign (Peter Hutchinson) and Sydeston (Neville Wilson) went down as well. Champion Let’s Elope then pushed to the lead and looked to have the race in her keeping.
But emerging from a haze of further bumps and checks, Greg Hall and Super Impose somehow got down the outside to win. Protests were fired in from all angles… minor placings were amended… but as on the track, the winner was left standing.
1998: The Valley rumbles
I’ll admit to a touch of bias here: I just love Might And Power’s arrogant, front-running style, and doing it over a Cox Plate field just solidified his greatness. A year after his Cups double, the big fella completed his treble of Melbourne majors in signature style.
2000: Scorched Earth
We’ve had twenty years of magnificent mares in this part of the world, and Sunline is the one who started it all. Starting as defending champion and 11-8 favourite, she got this one over nice and early, and was already out by a couple of lengths at the 600-metre mark.
Greg Childs took a cursory look over his shoulder, turned around and held on. She’d match Dulcify’s seven-length winning margin.
2016: The Winx Blitz
Winx does the back-to-back in what will, in time, probably be seen as her iconic performance. She jumped at $1.70 – an unheard-of price for Winx these days – and plenty of reasonable judges gave the red-hot Hartnell a good chance of knocking her off.
The two were side-by-side at the famous 600-metre mark and looked set for an epic showdown… but what happened next showed just how big a gap there was between Winx and Hartnell (and every other horse in the country).
2017: The Winx Trilogy
Only two horses have ever managed it, so it automatically qualifies as a magic moment! Winx’s greatness was confirmed by this stage, and most expected it to be a cakewalk much like the previous year. But nobody told Humidor that…
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