The Melbourne Mail: 2022 Cox Plate Weekend

Racing rolls into The Valley Swing in the great Spring Carnival Tour of 2022 with the Cox Plate meeting inevitably one of the highlights of the racing year.


In late November 1254 a special delivery arrived at Dover. A gift from Louis the King of France, to his English counterpart Henry III.

The gift was fairly standard. An elephant, which proved a fine addition to the Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London. Unfortunately, the elephant would only last a couple of years.

The elephant reportedly died of having consumed too much red wine. A fine way to go but an unusual one for an elephant in the care of the top minds of the time.

Clever as they were, those minds had fallen back on a received wisdom of the age - elephants live on wine not water.

Like most (I assume) my mind wandered to King Henry and his elephant during the fanfare of the Cox Plate barrier draw on Tuesday.

The barriers were all important on Tuesday. Results suggest things are different come race day.


The graph above shows the impact of barriers from the 1 1⁄4 m start at the Valley over the past decade. A barrier might have an impact in a specific case but in the general there is little to none.

Worrying about barriers, based on this, is adding a layer of unrequired complexity. The stories of the day might be about barriers but the result likely won't be. 

Henry's helpers, chasing solutions based on an offbeat narrative of the time when the simple solution was more likely, were perhaps too clever for their own good - or at least the good of the elephant. We should be sceptical of complicated answers and the sceptical klaxon sounds loud as El Bodegon slides on in to the role of shrewdies pick for Saturday's Cox Plate - largely on the back of the wisdom that the internationals are simply superior and vastly so. 

Japan and Ireland have won the three Cox Plates in the post Winx era, so the internationally-aware shrewds putting wine in that elephant will struggle to see it's pending death, but there have also been seven losers from abroad in that time. 

In the past three years, 158 horses have run in Australia straight off the plane from Britain and they have won 21 times. The ratio of those wins against what would be expected by chance shows a slightly postive value but 21 winners from 158 runners is hardly overwhelming evidence of absolute superiority. 

"But El Bodegon isn't just a typical Brit off the plane you flag-waving antipode!" I hear the Bodegon-lovin' readers scream. True. We know more about him than that. He is a Group One winner and a runner up in Europe's premier Derby (British handicappers may still be feeding elephants red wine but in recent years the Prix Du Jockey Club has been top) behind the best performance by a three-year-old in Europe in 2022 courtesy of Vadeni. 

This form is deep and compelling but hardly unprecedented. Grandera and Highland Reel were also placegetters in the Prix Du Jockey Club and both ran third at the Valley behind Northerly and Winx respectively. 

Anamoe is not Northerly or Winx but he only needs to be Defier or Criterion and his form reaches further than he has travelled. There was nothing between him and State Of Rest last year and that one promptly went home and won Group Ones in France and England, fending off the British Champion winner Bay Bridge with the wonderful Grand Glory, fifth in the Japan Cup and Arc either side, running third and Japan's Derby winner in fourth. It stands up to examination. 

All this is to say that the temptation to go trendy is tempered by wider evidence. If you follow the form abroad, and are as familiar with El Bodegon as you are with Anamoe, it is normal to want to exploit that knowledge. To the man with a hammer everything looks like a nail, but perhaps the hammer is best replaced by Ockam's razor - the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Australia's best trainer (according to the Racing and Sports Power Rankings below) and Australia's best jockey (according to everyone in the know) link with a horse that won the best lead-up and has performed to his best in the Cox Plate before. He might not make you look clever, he may well make you look daft, but backing Anamoe in this spot will allow you to survive longer than Henry III's elephant. If he loses you can always drink wine. 



The power rankings above tell the tale of the Manikato, the highlight on the Friday night where the market is headed by trainers ranked one, two and four and with jockeys one, four nine and eleven. 

I suspect even by his own admission Robert Heathcote looks strangely high on the list but that is the beauty of these rankings. They operate on Australian Group races over a rolling six-months and in that period Heathcote has had top results in Group races largely through Startantes and Rothfire who goes for him in the Manikato.

Rothfire and Heathcote stood up to the big names in the Brisbane winter and made a winning start to the Melbourne spring in the McEwen before being beaten as favourite, a place ahead of Paulele, in the Moir.

That form has a funky look about it and Paulele quickly proved it all wrong by winning the Schillaci in nice style. As a result he turns up favourite here with prices, scaled to a head-to-head, making it 75/25 in favour of Paulele.

It was 57/43 in favour of Rothfire by the time they jumped in the Moir. No doubt Paulele winning since justifies some updating but Rothfire has lost little in his absence since and like Paulele looks better suited up to 6 f now.

So the favourite from the Might and Power and the favourite for the Moir go up and make for simple tips. Simple solutions to complex problems. Like hydrating an elephant with water. 



Bet Of The Day: Saturday Race 9 #10 Anamoe @ $2.40

Each Way Play: Friday Race 7 #7 Rothfire @ $7.50

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