There will be only four more Cox Plates run at the current Valley
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Mark Scully in Melbourne 7:25AM 20 OCT 2016
EARLY risers on Saturday will be able to enjoy one of racing’s great spectacles, with the Cox Plate taking place at Moonee Valley at 7am.
This course is every bit as remarkable as you have heard, with bends more like those you would associate with a velodrome than a racecourse and a home straight less than a furlong in length.
The race presents one of world racing’s greatest tests for the thoroughbred, with the winner needing to combine impeccable balance and the ability to accelerate around almost constant bends with a perfect temperament to deal with the claustrophobic grandstand.
Enjoy it while you can though, ladies and gentleman, because on Thursday it was confirmed the track is to undergo an extraordinary facelift.
After the 2020 renewal, the bulldozers will move in and the orientation of the racecourse altered forever. Looking from above, the grandstand and winning post will move from their current spot 90 degrees to the left, creating a home straight almost a furlong longer.
As I made clear in welcoming the Victoria Racing Club’s deal to stream the Melbourne Cup live on Twitter last week, I am not against racing making progress. However, this feels akin to Cheltenham announcing plans to level out the hill.
The $ 150 million redevelopment will surely be impressive when the course re-opens in 2022 (the 2021 Cox Plate will be run elsewhere) but will Australia’s greatest weight-for-age race ever be the same again?
No fly zone
I mentioned earlier in the week the possibility of Joao Moreira and Sam Clipperton being grounded in Hong Kong by a typhoon and not being allowed to travel and take up their respective mounts aboard Vadamos in the Cox Plate and English in the Manikato Stakes.
Well, a little earlier on Thursday afternoon, those jockey agents were thrust into action because the Hong Kong Jockey Club have told Moreira and Clipperton to stay put to ensure they are available to ride at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Mark Zahra now takes the ride aboard English, and is also in the running for the plum ride on Vadamos, dependent on the outcome of Damien Oliver’s appeal hearing on Friday. He is attempting to overturn a 20-meeting suspension for reckless riding.
Hopefully, that is the final say bad weather will have this weekend.
Subby the superstar
Everybody loves a heroic old racehorse, as seen by the popularity of the Retraining Of Racehorses’ parades in Britain but perhaps the best example of this is the 1992 Melbourne Cup winner Subzero.
The 28-year-old grey remains a star in Victoria and across Australia and regularly makes public appearances, including visits to old people’s homes and hospices, which could make even the coldest-hearted cynic melt.
On Thursday, I attended a lunch at Moonee Valley racecourse (the things I do in the name of reporting, honestly) and who else popped in for a feed but Subby himself.
When I say popped in, he literally did come into the room, placid as you like and was a superstar as everybody fed him carrots.
Horses like Subby, wherever they are in the world, are the way for racing to win hearts and minds in terms of equine welfare arguments and the simplest way for the sport to gain friends for life.