Ratings expert: Cox Plate no one-horse race
LYS Gracieux's trainer and jockey are supremely confident, bookmakers are nervous but international form ratings expert Gary Crispe believes the $5 million Cox Plate is far from a fait accompli.
Crispe agrees Lys Gracieux is a deserving favourite, but warns against the perils ignoring the claims of Avilius and Irish raider Magic Wand.
Caulfield Cup-winning jockey Damian Lane has a massive opinion of Ladbrokes $3.80 elect based on her Japanese Group 1 success and previous sorties abroad.
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The mare's trainer Yoshito Yahagi says he has the best horse in the weight-for-age championship and expects her to run accordingly.
But, as imposing as those views are in the quest to succeed Winx, Crispe says it is far from a one-horse race.
"I think on her best figures and on her rating from her last run in Japan (victory in the Takarazuka Kinen), she certainly is the horse to beat," Crispe said.
"Certainly on raw numbers she looks very strong.
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"Magic Wand is the interesting runner with her formline through Magical and, like Lys Gracieux, has the benefit of a two kilogram allowance as a mare.
"Magic Wand is capable of producing similar numbers to Lys Gracieux. Avilius falls into that category, too."
Lys Gracieux is bidding to become Japan's first Cox Plate winner and to complete her nation's sweep of Melbourne's most coveted features.
Japan has won the Caulfield Cup twice (Admire Rakti in 2014 and Mer De Glace last week) and the Melbourne Cup (Delta Blues in 2006).
There will be a minimum of four internationals in Saturday's Group1 contest with Japanese pair Lys Gracieux and Kluger alongside England's Danceteria and Ireland's Magic Wand.
British runner Dream Castle is fourth emergency.
Third emergency Mr Quickie is in doubt because of leg soreness.
The Queensland Derby winner is also entered in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup but will need to pass a veterinary test on Friday.
Lindsay Park's Muntahaa has been spelled after his Geelong Cup last and will miss the Melbourne Cup on November 5.
England-based Frenchman David Menuisier is confident Danceteria will handle The Valley at his Australian debut.
"It is a funny, quirky track so I think until you try you don't really know how you're going to handle it," Menuisier said.
"But I think that applies to all the horses who haven't been on that track. I think the horse is well-balanced and the track is nice and flat which is important for him. So I think he should handle it."
Danceteria missed the Ladbrokes Stakes at Caulfield on October 12 because of a minor infection.
"It was a shame but we decided to be on the side of caution because his scope wasn't perfect," Menuisier said.
"He had a little bit of mucus, so we thought we might as well bypass rather than take the chance to run in the Caulfield Stakes, just in case it did affect him.
"The horse is fine. He had his final piece of work on Tuesday morning and I'm delighted with him."
KLUGER HAS WINX FORM: BERRY
Top jockey Tommy Berry has declared "forgotten" Japanese raider Kluger a live chance in Saturday's $5m Cox Plate.
Kluger throttled all bar Winx last time out in Australia, when second to the legend in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and yet the eight year-old has barely earned a mention in the build-up to the weight-for-age 2040m classic.
"I've always thought and many good form students would say Winx form is the best form and this bloke has seemed to come back better this time," Berry said.
"I believe riding him in two gallops (that) he's going better (now) than he was last preparation and he definitely looks better in his coat."
Kluger loomed as the spoiler in Winx's swan song last April, emerging on the rail and chasing hard in the Randwick straight, but peaked on the run.
The rest of the field, including weight-for-age warriors Hartnell and Happy Clapper were no match.
Despite the form, the interest and most of the Cox Plate money is on Japan's top seed, Lys Gracieux, as the racing-mad country targets a second Australian major in as many Saturdays after Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace romped to victory last week.
"I galloped him (Kluger) going into both of his runs last preparation and he didn't want to grab the bridle where this time he's been much more switched on," Berry said.
"He worked with the mare (Lys Gracieux) … and there's nothing between them in their work.
"He's going to be there to run a big race."
The tight-turning Valley circuit is also of no concern to Kluger and Berry.
Trainer Tomokazu Takano is thrilled about Kluger's return.
"When he ran second to Winx he was well but actually he's feeling even better now, condition wise to what he was," Takano said through an interpreter.
"Lys Gracieux is a super horse and done amazing form in Japan, it's really hard to compare to Kluger's form but same time Kluger thrives in Australia.
"I really hope he goes well and we'd love to see (another) Japan win."
- GILBERT GARDINER
MICHAEL MANLEY'S COX PLATE FORMGUIDE
GROUP 1 WFA COX PLATE (2040m)
RACE 9, 4.55pm, The Valley - Saturday
TRACK: Good 4
WEATHER FORECAST: 17C SHOWERS
Expect BLACK HEART BART, LYS GRACIEUX and HOMESMAN to push forward from their outside draws. MYSTIC JOURNEY will try and position up behind them.
BLACK HEART BART
WA training maestro Lindsey Smith has rejuvenated this nine-year-old who swayed his connections to pay the $200,000 late entry fee with his recent w-f-a form. He'll push forward. He finished ninth in this race three years ago with the same form going into this.
EVERY RUNNER: WHAT MICK SAYS
He could be the best local weight-for-age horse but he's not a superstar. Loves it wet and if the pressure goes on a long way out he should be a factor.
Japanese performer who made Winx stretch to defeat him in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in the autumn. On that run alone he's got to be considered.
Big race blowout specialist as he's been at big odds winning the past two Australian Cups. Good run last start when third in the Caulfield Stakes. He'll be on the speed. One at odds.
He's been one of the more solid WFA performers for the past two years. This looks a tougher proposition though. Saves his best for here but from his barrier (16) he's going to struggle.
KINGS WILL DREAM
Amazingly, he's back for this a year after his future was in the balance after he broke his pelvis in this race. Strong win in the Turnbull brings him right into calculations.
TE AKAU SHARK
Lightly raced Kiwi who has found his way into the field due to his x-factor. He's untried in a Group 1 w-f-a race and he hasn't run over this distance.
English trained galloper who finished fourth behind Enable two starts ago before winning at Group 1 level over 2000m in Germany last start. He had a minor setback last week with excess mucus though.
She's a legitimate Group 1 performer in Japan which automatically makes her the horse to beat. She's also competed well in Hong Kong at that level. She's drawn out but she works forward and her recent wins have been from wide draws.
Her form is as good if not better than any European to have contested this race. She's trained by Aidan O'Brien who trained Adelaide to win. At her last start she finished second to England's likely Horse Of The Year Magical in the Irish Championship Stakes.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
Settled back and unleased a powerful sprinting burst to win his Australian debut in the Caulfield Stakes for Lindsay Park. Can't be dismissed on that run.
She's not Winx but she could get another mention with the immortal one tomorrow as her Cox Plate successor. She got too far back in the Turnbull but finished strongly. She'll be in a great spot and she's capable of winning.
Gifted mare who can do a few things wrong but she possesses a fast finishing burst. She's had four starts at 2000m for three wins including two at Group 1 level. She loves it wet.
Brilliant three-year-old colt who finished off strongly when second to a rising staying star in Shadow Hero in the Spring Champion Stakes. With featherweight he should run a big race.
Two years ago he looked as if he might beat Winx for a stride in this race. Good third last year. Looks on track for this and if he gets a run he'll be to the fore.
Gifted four-year-old who was unlucky in the Caulfield Cup. Would have run well if he'd got in but connections will have to settle for the Moonee Valley Cup
Comeback galloper racing well. If he got in, he's likely to lead and would give some cheek.
Dubai Group 1 winner earlier this year whose best work was late in the Caulfield Stakes.
CAPE OF GOOD will be aiming to make it 17 Caulfield Stakes winners to have completed the double from 58 attempts. KINGS WILL DREAM will try and make it 12 winners from 34 starters.
Make the main bet LYS GRACIEUX the win with smaller investments on MYSTIC JOURNEY and MAGIC WAND. Take that trio in exactas and make them the key runners in First Four bets.
JAMES CUMMINGS: AVILIUS
"The Cox Plate is run late on Saturday with a full card on Friday night to chop up the ground a bit. When they're really getting their toe into it, Avilius is well-suited. With a little bit of rain forecast for Friday and Saturday it will be perfect."
1. LYS GRACIEUX
2. MAGIC WAND
3. MYSTIC JOURNEY
4. CAPE OF GOOD HOPE