The make-up of the W.S. Cox Plate changed dramatically on Tuesday morning when just a couple of hours after the final field was determined, brilliant mare, Atlantic Jewel was scratched with another tendon injury. From four genuine stars in the weight for age championship, we were down to three, but what an amazing trio they are.
It's A Dundeel ($4 Fixed Odds with tab.com.au) is the intriguing horse in Saturday's race. Having not raced since defeating Atlantic Jewel in the Underwood on September 21 at Caulfield, trainer Murray Baker isn't concerned, saying the horse won't lack race fitness despite missing the Caulfield Stakes with a foot abscess.
Baker told me this week It's A Dundeel is a clean winded type who doesn't require a lot of trackwork to get fit. On Thousand Guineas day, It's A Dundeel did surprise Baker and race jockey James McDonald with just how strong he was in a solo gallop without his normal raceday blinkers.
With the lack of a leader in the Cox Plate, it may be tempting to ride It's A Dundeel closer to the pace, like they did in the Underwood Stakes tussle with Atlantic Jewel. One massive plus with It's A Dundeel is his ability to sprint in a matter of bounds.
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Puissance de Lune ($4.60) has come such a long way in twelve months. He shot onto the scene at Flemington last year when jockey Glen Boss declared he would be a major player in the 2013 Carnival. While Puissance de Lune hasn't won since his first up victory in the Peter Lawrence win at Caulfield, the six year old hasn't been disgraced in subsequent runs
Glen Boss is on the sidelines due to suspension which presents Ben Melham with a dream chance of winning one of the world's great races. Melham snuck down to Warrnambool on Tuesday morning to ride Puissance De Lune in his final gallop and the reports have been very encouraging.
But if you think Melham will be overawed by the occasion, don't be…he is one of only three jockeys to have won on the great mare Black Caviar when he rode her to victory in the 2010 Patinack Classic and will relish the opportunity.
It appears that the forgotten horse yet again is the Turnbull Stakes winner, Happy Trails, who is currently quoted at $12 Fixed Odds with tab.com.au. It's been a turbulent week for the stable with trainer Paul Beshara being handed a 6 month disqualification by RVL stewards which necessitated Happy Trails being transferred to Adelaide mentor Byron Cozamanis. As for the horse though, Happy Trails has all guns blazing. Jockey, Dwayne Dunn has quickly adapted to him and from barrier two, the horse should get a perfect trail into the race.
For mine though, Fiorente ($5 with tab.com.au) is the wildcard in the Cox Plate. The former European stayer is capable of producing an incredible burst of speed and can seemingly come from anywhere and win. That was clearly evident at Moonee Valley when Fiorente was under pressure in the Feehan Stakes before steaming home to score an emphatic and dominant victory.
I think it's fair to say that the Cox Plate field is much stronger than the Feehan Stakes but ever since Fiorente joined the Gai Waterhouse stable he's raced like a superstar.
I'm tipping it will be another classic Cox Plate that will be talked about and revered in the years to come.
My tip is Fiorente to beat It's a Dundeel and Puissance de Lune, with the best roughie being Masked Marvel who is massive odds at $31
Don't forget to watch Racing Retro on Sunday morning at 8.30 (AEDT) on Sky Racing1 (channel 519) or Sky Racing World (channel 521) when we'll have a complete review of Manikato Stakes Night and Cox Plate Day.
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase