Trainer Gai Waterhouse has a three-pronged attack for the $3-million Sportingbet W. S. Cox Plate (Aus-I), Australia's premier weight-for-age race on Oct. 27 at Moonee Valley Racecourse, led by champions Pierro and More Joyous.
Pierro, last season's champion 2-year-old male, is the pre-race favorite of the about 1 1/4-mile (2,040-meter) turf race that attracted a field of 14, including two other 3-year-olds.
The colt by Darley's dual hemisphere stallion Lonhro was unbeaten in eight career starts, including the three at the top-level, entering the Beck Caulfield Guineas (Aus-I) on Oct. 13. He found the closing rally of Black Caviar's half brother All Too Hard too much, however, and was overtaken less than 50 meters out and finished a close second.
All Too Hard, a Casino Prince colt and the only one of the sophomore trio to have previously faced older runners, also returns in the Cox Plate and will start from post three. He finished fourth to Cox Plate entrant Shoot Out in the George Main Stakes (Aus-I) in September.
Only five 3-year-olds have won the Cox Plate in 70 runnings since its inauguration in 1922: Surround in 1976; Red Anchor, 1984: Octagonal, 1995; Savabeel, 2004; and So You Think, 2009.
Pierro will break from post seven, which has produced the most victories in Cox Plate history, as he tries to join the exclusive club of 3-year-old winners along with All Too Hard and Waterhouse's talented Proisir. A group III winner by Choisir, Proisir looked en route to victory in the Chandon Spring Champion Stakes (Aus-I) last out at Randwick, but finished a heartbreaking second to Dundeel, who wore him down in the straight and surged at the finish line to win by a head.
Waterhouse, whose father, legendary trainer Tommy Smith, won the race with Red Anchor, is bidding to add a first Cox Plate win to her record that earned her a place in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2007. She chose post 10 for Proisir and a wider draw from post 11 for her elite mare More Joyous, upsetting owner John Singleton with whom she has been a lifelong friend.
"This isn't death, it is suicide," Singleton told The Daily Telegraph of what he believes the post means for his 6-year-old mare, last season's champion miler. "It will be almost impossible for her to win now."
"It'll be very much a tactical race and I suppose I didn't want her getting too cluttered up because there are a few squeeze barriers there," Waterhouse said. More Joyous finished fifth to So You Think in the 2010 Cox Plate.
More Joyous started 2012 with an impressive six-race win streak that included three consecutive group I wins but was denied win 22 when finishing fourth to Solzhenitsyn, done in by her 132-pound impost and a wide trip in the David Jones Rose Clinic Toorak Handicap (Aus-I) at Caulfield on Oct. 13. She will tote 125 pounds in the Cox Plate.
Green Moon, a 6-year-old who will start from post five, is the second-favorite behind Pierro. The Irish-bred Montjeu colt, who will carry 130 pounds, is trained by Robert Hickmott.
Craig Williams, who guided in Pinker Pinker last year, has the mount on Green Moon, who comes in with a breakthrough group I over Seville in the Turnbull Stakes (Aus-I) on Oct. 6 at Flemington.
"We should get a nice run from that gate," Williams said. "We can ride him how we like from that barrier draw. If I drew a little bit wider, the concern would be that we wouldn't be able to put him as close as what we'd like."
Multiple group I winner Ocean Park, the third choice trained by Gary Hennessy, enters with a three-race win streak that includes the Cathay Pacific Caulfield Stakes (Aus-I) on Oct. 13. The 4-year-old by Thorn Park will carry 126 pounds and will start from post nine.
Several other contenders are proven at the highest level, including Ethiopia (126 pounds); Glass Harmonium (130), 10th in last year's Cox Plate; Shoot Out (130), fourth last year; Sincero (130), ninth last year; and Southern Speed (125). Group winners Rekindled Interest (130), third last year; Linton (130); and Happy Trails (130) round out the field.