At the top of the Caulfield straight, I thought I was on the winner as European powerhouse Anthony Van Dyck loomed to tackle mare Verry Elleegant.
The Chris Waller-trained mare had the easier trip in transit, carried a few less kg and was up for the fight all the way to the wire.
Not to be, but we press on with another of the majors, the 100th W.S. Cox Plate.
LADBROKES W.S. COX PLATE (Group 1, 2040m, $5,000,000)
1 KOLDING – James McDonald, Chris Waller ($13)
A 10-time winner with almost $6m in the kitty. Must be respected, particularly whenever one from the C Waller yard in engaged in a group 1 at The Valley. Many wonder whether he’s a better horse in Sydney which will be problematic considering The Valley resides in the inner north of Melbourne.
2 HUMIDOR – Craig Williams, Chris Waller ($20)
Keep him safe. Placed 3/4 at the track, 9/14 at the trip and everyone recalls him giving Winx an almighty scare in the 2017 edition of this race.
Exploded back onto the Group 1 scene with a storming Feehan Stakes win. Seems as good a blowout hope as anything in the race.
3 FIERCE IMPACT – Luke Currie, Matthew Smith ($31)
A powerhouse over the mile, here he steps up to the extra trip. Has never seen the track (which is a worry). Kolding knocked him off at his last start up in Sydney but he’s a quality horse. Goes okay in the wet.
4 MASTER OF WINE – Michael Rodd, Hawkes Team ($41)
Leave me out. This horse seems to be all hype at this point of his career but I’m wrong more than I’m right so who knows..
Probably ridden uncomfortably in the Caulfield Cup but there’s always an excuse for this fella.
5 MUGATOO – John Allen, Kris Lees ($26)
Has won 5/8 on soft tracks so keep that in mind. Was strong winning the Newcastle Cup but needless to say, this is a slightly better race. Not for me.
6 ASPETAR – Damian Lane, Roger Charlton ($17)
An underrated European traveller from a successful yard. Hard to measure him up against the Aussies but he does seem half a rung below his fellow Europeans. Market could be telling, particularly if he is supported.
7 SIR DRAGONET – Glen Boss, Maher & Eustace ($13)
Has knocked off hotshot Armory and gave Magical a race. Lightly raced, progressive and joins an in-form stable.
Glen Boss can give him a special trip, worryingly he’s had five tries at the trip for four seconds only. In the mix.
8 MAGIC WAND – Mark Zahra, Aidan O’Brien ($27)
A globetrotting mare with world class credentials. Placed in last year’s Cox Plate before going on to win the Mackinnon. Also ran top 10 in the Melbourne Cup. Worry is her recent form which saw her beaten down the track as favourite in Ireland. Rain may not help but I’ll be keeping her safe in my book.
9 ARCADIA QUEEN – William Pike, G & A Williams ($5.50)
Rain rain go away. Gave Russian Camelot wind burn last start but had most things to suit. Has won 7/13 but all have been on good tracks.
Knockers will say W Pike may struggle at The Valley but the talent of this mare may carry him home.
10 NETTOYER – Billy Egan, Wendy Roche ($101)
1/1 at the track, likes eating pizza and is in fact a Group 1 winner. Aside from all that, got no hope.
11 RUSSIAN CAMELOT – Damien Oliver, Danny O’Brien ($4.80)
The 4/1 on offer could look like the bet of the year in hindsight. This bloke likes getting his toe into the turf (which he should get), will enjoy more tempo and is as progressive as anything in the country.
Ollie has options from the wide gate, which could be an advantage at that time of the day. You cannot let him be a loss.
12 ARMORY – Ben Melham, Aidan O’Brien ($6)
A star early season Northern Hemisphere four-year-old with a form profile similar to stable mate and former Cox Plate winner, Adelaide.
Travelling foreman TJ Comerford said this son of Galileo is better equipped to win than Adelaide was. Big statement! Top pick.
13 PROBABEEL – Kerrin McEvoy, Jamie Richards ($10)
The superstar jock goes on, the weather suits (4/10 with 5 placings on soft) and in rich form. A young mare but one that is experienced and of high quality. A really nice each way bet.
14 GRANDSLAM – Jye McNeil, Maher & Eustace ($20)
20/1… you’re kidding me. You can have him for anything less than 50/1. A complete roughie running top three in a less than vintage Guineas.
A one win horse going against superstars of the turf. No thanks.
15 BUCKHURST – Jamie Kah, Joseph O’Brien ($46)
Thought he’d get in before Grandslam, Nettoyer and Master of Wine but not to be. With injury clouds hanging over a couple, his chances of a run are fair. Was alright in the Caulfield Cup, perhaps not suited by the ground as he wobbled up the home straight.
Three-year-old Grandslam will roll. His only option is to run, get them chasing and hope his light weight wins him the race – which it won’t.
Magic Wand will be up on the premises, as she did last year when kicking off a strong speed and holding on for a place.
Russian Camelot will be somewhere up front from the wide gate and Oliver will not allow this race to be run slowly.
Probabeel will be in a nice position, with Armory just better than midfield.
Grandslam may set it up for a back-marker but the class of Russian Camelot, Armory and Arcadia Queen should prevail.
1 Armory $6
2 Russian Camelot $4.80
3 Probabeel $10
4 Magic Wand $27