Winx and Hugh Bowman (pictured winning in Brisbane) have won the last two Cox Plates. Can Winx emulate the great Kingston Town and win a third Cox Plate in 2017? (Photo Dan Costello)
Most thoroughbred devotees would regard the Cox Plate as the greatest race run in Australia each year, so I thought I’d do some deep and meaningful research and go back and check deeper into the history of the great race and the thoroughbreds that have run in it.
First held in 1922, the Cox Plate boasts the following extraordinary provable statistic. No fewer than 36 horses have figured in the first three placings more than once. Many of those names are recognised champions of the racetrack. You will not find that “class dominance” of cream seemingly always coming to the top in Caulfield Cups, Melbourne Cups, Epsoms or Newmarkets – that you will find in Cox Plate history.
Roughies rarely win the Cox Plate and when they do, most punters kick themselves, questioning how they let the horse go to the post at such ridiculous odds. The latest two roughies to win the Cox Plate were 2011 winner Pinker Pinker and 20/1 chance Shamus Award in 2013. The previous roughie to win the race before Pinker Pinker in 2011 was the top class mare Dane Ripper way back in 1997. Trained by Bart Cummings and ridden by Damien Oliver, Dane Ripper started at 40/1, even though she’d won the Group 1 Stradbroke at Eagle Farm just four months earlier. I fancy many people gave themselves an uppercut later that night for not giving her the respect she deserved. Before Dane Ripper, the previous roughie to win the Cox Plate was the champion Randwick miler Super Impose, who started at 16/1 in 1992. So it’s taken as read that even when a horse at double figure odds wins the race, he or she is generally a high class horse, as until recently, lesser horses weren’t even allowed to start in the race.
The Cox Plate is also a great race for favourites with 36 outright favourites and one equal favourite being victorious since inception. My research into the history of the Cox Plate reveals the fact that between the years 1986 and 1990 inclusive five very short priced consecutive favourites won the Cox Plate - namely Bonecrusher 9/10, Rubiton 7/4, Our Poetic Prince 5/4, Almaarad 11/4 and Better Loosen Up 2/1.
Anyway back to those 36 individual horses that have been placed more than once and here is the cavalcade of stars my research points to - working right from the inaugural running up until the 2016 inclusive version of the Cox Plate.
1) - Stallion Whittier ran second in 1923 and second again in 1924.
2) - Stallion The Night Patrol won in 1924 before running second the following year.
3) - Gelding Mollison ran third in both 1929 and 1930.
4) - Champion Phar Lap won at 7/1 on in 1930 then started 14/1 on when winning again in 1931.
5) - Johnnie Jason was good enough to run third to Phar Lap in 1931, then backed up the next year and ran third to the great galloper Chatham.
6) - On the subject of champion Chatham, the bay entire won two Cox Plates – 1932 at 10/9 and 1934 at 2/1. He was beaten into fourth placing in 1933 at 15/8 on, in just a seven-horse field.
7) - Hall Mark ran two seconds in consecutive years - 1934 and 1935 - after he’d won the 1933 Melbourne Cup.
8) - Young Idea, another stallion, was obviously top class. He won the Cox Plate in 1936 then he won it again in 1937 before running third to champion Ajax in 1938.
9) - On the subject of stallion Ajax – who won 36 races and ran nine placings from 46 starts, he won the 1938 Cox Plate at 2/1 on ($1.50) then two years later he got beaten by half a neck at 2/1 ($3) to the 7/4 ($2.75) favourite Beau Vite.
10) – Stallion Beau Vite ran last of 12 as a 3YO in the 1939 Cox Plate but won both the 1940 and 1941 versions of the race.
11) - Champion mare Tranquil Star won two Cox Plates – 1942 and 1944 - after having run third in 1941.
12) – Another champion mare - Flight - won her first Cox Plate as a 5YO in 1945 then came back in 1947 to win by 3.5 lengths. She won 24 races in her career and also ran an amazing nineteen seconds.
13) – A stallion named Iron Duke ran second in 1950 before running third in 1951. He also ran fourth to Delta in 1949. Interestingly, a handy horse by the name of Comic Court ran second to Delta at 5/4.
14) - The champion black stallion Hydrogen got beaten by a neck in 1951 at 5/4 but had easy wins in 1952 at 11/8 and 1953 at 3/1. The talented galloper Carioca started the 9/4 favourite in 1953 but sadly for his supporters he could only manage fifth. Hydrogen won 26 races during his illustrious career.
15) – Arguably the greatest racehorse produced in New Zealand, Rising Fast, won the Cox Plate in 1954 at 11/8 by four lengths. He failed the following year (1955) at 6/4 when running sixth, but he bounced back in 1956 at 7/4 to get beaten by a short half head to Ray Ribbon. Unquestionably one of the greatest horses worldwide of the twentieth century, Rising Fast, a gelding, won the 1955 and 1956 Caulfield Cups and the 1954 Melbourne Cup amongst his 24 racetrack victories.
16) - A precocious and classy 3YO colt named Caranna, starting the 13/8 favourite, got beaten half a neck in 1955 but still managed to finish in front of the likes of Sailors Guide, Redcraze and Rising Fast, then he backed up in 1956 but ran third. Caranna was trained by a Mr E. Hush, the same man who trained Hydrogen to two victories just two and three years earlier.
17) – Stallion Dhaulagiri at 3/1 ran second to the champion Tulloch (2/1) in the 1960 Cox Plate, but got his revenge in 1961 with no Tulloch around - and oddly enough started at a bigger price than he did against Tulloch when he scored at 9/2. The reason he ran at 9/2 was because a 4YO Sydney trained horse called Sky High, with George Moore aboard, was considered unbeatable at his long odds-on quote of 4/9. Sky High was owned by AJC chairman Brian Crowley who owned Flight, victorious twice - 15 and 16 years earlier.
18) - New Statesman ran second in 1961 before returning in 1962 to run third behind West Australian champion stallion Aquanita and Grand Print.
19) - Top Victorian gelding Winfreux, which earlier in the year had won both the Doomben 10,000 and Stradbroke Handicap, lined up in the 1965 Cox Plate and ran second as the 11/8 favourite to Angus Armanasco’s top class 3YO colt Star Affair. Not to be denied, Winfreux buttered up the next year (1966) and had to be content with second again, beaten this time by champion stallion Tobin Bronze. The great Tobin Bronze won 24 races in Australia, then another four in America when he was taken there to race.
20) - Tobin Bronze won the Cox Plate in 1966 (as stated in number 19 above) then stepped out the following year with new owners and won easily at the prohibitive odds of 1/6 (about $1.17 in today's lingo) collecting the then $20,000 first prizemoney. By comparison this year’s 2016 version of the Cox Plate was worth $3 million in total prizemoney.
21) - Fileur was an unlucky horse in Cox Plate history. He ran second to Rajah Sahib in 1968 then as favourite in 1969 he ran third to two pretty fair New Zealand bred horses – Daryl’s Joy and Ben Lomond.
22) - Yet another stallion, Family of Man, won the 1977 Cox Plate before running second to the Colin Hayes trained So Called the following year.
23) – One of the greatest of them all, Kingston Town, won three consecutive Cox Plates from 1980 onwards. He didn’t handle the track but cream generally comes to the top – in life – or out on the racetrack. Bookies took him on each year and lost heavily when he kept winning. He started favourite each time, but ran at black figures twice. For the record he started 6/4 (1980), 4/6 (1981) and 7/4 (1982).
24) - Our Poetic Prince, trained by John Wheeler, won the 1988 Cox Plate beating a couple of New Zealand champs namely Horlicks and Bonecrusher. In 1987 Our Poetic Prince had run a narrow second to the classy looking 4YO stallion and 7/4 favourite - Rubiton.
25) - On the subject of Bonecrusher, he ran third to Our Poetic Prince in 1988 but in 1986 he had been victorious by a neck over fellow New Zealander Our Waverley Star. Just to show the strength of the New Zealand breeding industry back then, it’s a fact that eight of the first nine across the line in 1988 were bred in New Zealand. In order of finish they were Bonecrusher, Our Waverley Star, The Filbert, Dandy Andy, Drought, Dinky Flyer, Tristram and Ma Chiquita. Australian bred stallion Drawn got in the road and ran sixth.
26) - Mick Dittman steered Sydeston to a second placing in 1990 behind Better Loosen Up and a third the following year to Kiwi galloper Surfers Paradise and Aussie champ Super Impose.
27) - Champion miler Super Impose won 20 races and $5,659,358 during his illustrious career. Whilst his four Randwick mile wins are indelibly imprinted in our mind forever, he also won the 1992 Cox Plate beating one of the greatest fields ever assembled. As stated in number 26 above, one year earlier, in 1991, Super Impose had run second in the Cox Plate to Surfers Paradise.
28) - New Zealand female trainer Moira Murdoch crossed the Tasman in 1993 but she had to be happy with a second to another Kiwi galloper named The Phantom Chance. Moira however had her moment of glory in 1994 when her horse, Solvit, beat another handy New Zealander that had won 29 races – namely Rough Habit - by just half a head.
29) – Magnificent chestnut stallion Filante – trained by one of the late great trainers, Jack Denham, ran second in two consecutive Cox Plates. Saintly beat Filante a head in the Cox Plate of 1996 before winning the Melbourne Cup 10 days later. In 1997 Filante again played second fiddle – this time to Dane Ripper.
30) – Arguably the greatest New Zealand mare to ever look through a bridle, Sunline, went within three-quarters of a length of equalling the great Kingston Town’s feat of winning three consecutive Cox Plates. Victorious in 1999 and 2000, she was nailed by Western Australian champion Northerly in 2001. The champion mare won 32 races and $11,351,607 in her wonderful career.
31) - Northerly after beating Sunline in 2001, returned in 2002 and won again. He is one of very few horses to win two consecutive Cox Plates.
32) - Defier proved himself to be a genuine Group 1 horse by running second to Northerly in 2002 and then was second again in the 2003 running of the event to Fields of Omagh. To this day Defier still holds the track record for 2200 metres at Doomben in Brisbane at 2.11.67, set when winning the Group 1 Doomben Cup in 2004.
33) - Fields of Omagh won or was placed in an amazing four Cox Plates in the period from 2003 to 2006 inclusive. In 2003 he won the race. In 2004 he ran second to Savabeel. In 2005 he clocked in third to Makybe Diva and Lotteria. Then in 2006 he won his second Cox Plate.
34) - The last horse to run multiple placings, but not win, a Cox Plate, was the classy galloper Zipping. He was placed three times in consecutive Cox Plates. In 2008 he ran second to Maldivian before running third in 2009 to So You Think and then in 2010 he again ran second to international multiple Group 1 winner So You Think.
35) – The second last name of the 36 horses is that of champion racehorse So You Think, mentioned in the Zipping information (in number 34 above) as So You Think won the Cox Plate in consecutive years of 2009 and 2010.
36) – And last but not least, champion mare Winx won the Cox Plate in consecutive years of 2015 and 2016 and she’ll hopefully be back in 2017 to try to emulate the feat of the great Kingston Town. He recorded three consecutive Cox Plates victories (1980/81/82).
Research of recent Cox Plate history shows that horses starting with the letter “S” have an incredible winning strike rate. In the last 25 runnings of the race (1991 to 2016 inclusive) an incredible nine winners names have started with “S”. They were, in year order, Surfers Paradise, Super Impose, Solvit, Saintly, Sunline (twice), So You Think (twice) and Shamus Award. In 1991 horses starting with the letter “S” amazingly ran the trifecta when Surfers Paradise beat Super Impose and Sydeston. No horse that started with the letter “S” even contested the Cox Plate in the last two years of 2016 and 2015, so 2014 was the last time a horse starting with the letter “S” ran in a Cox Plate and in 2014 four horses starting with the letter “S” ran in the race. Silent Achiever ran third at 25/1, Side Glance ran fourth at 20/1, Sweynesse ran eighth at 16/1 and Sacred Falls finished eleventh at 15/2.
As mentioned at the outset, the Cox Plate is a great race for favourites and for top class racehorses that regularly feature multiple times in the placings. Additionally, in the last quarter of a century, the Cox Plate has been a good race for horses starting with the letter “S”.