The past two Cox Plate (Aust-I) winners clashed in the seven furlong CF Orr Stakes (Aust-I) on yet another day wracked by intense heat. The event was held Feb. 8 at Caulfield racecourse.
Despite the caliber of the group I race, all at the track and indeed throughout Australia, were somber as news kept filtering through every 30 minutes, that the 105-plus degree heat had gone on a killing rampage throughout parts of Victoria. By the time the Orr Stakes race came about late in the afternoon, 75 men and women had been killed by the fires and heat that have decimated the state. The pall of smoke that wafted over Caulfield was a terrible and sinister reminder of the strength of Mother Nature.
On a day when all of Australia was affected, it detracted from the contest at hand that featured two great warriors--2008 Cox Plate winner Maldivian and 2007 Cox Plate winner El Segundo.
In the end, 12 starters took to the track in the $400,000 event with brilliant multiple group I winner Light Fantastic as the short priced favorite.
But it was Maldivian who took up the running from barrier rise. “He is leaner than he normally is first up,” observed his trainer, Mark Kavanagh, just prior to the start. “He had very little time off following his Cox Plate win in October, and I also fitted him with blinkers for this. He has never had the hood on when resuming before.”
And it worked.
Maldivian rolled straight to the lead and between the five-furlong mark and home turn, he turned on some irrepressible speed. He simply ran them off their legs in the heat and into the ground. He wound up getting very weary over the concluding stages, but horses under that grueling sunshine found it too hard to accelerate. Maldivian hung on to beat multiple group I winner Alamosa by nearly three-quarter of a length, with another dual group I winner, Theseo, back in third spot.
Alamosa came from well back, and his final three furlongs were the fastest in the race at 34.24 seconds.
Maldivian, who was five lengths in front of Alamosa coming to the home bend, ran his final three furlongs in 35.13 seconds. The overall time was only ordinary in 1.23.49.
The 5-2 favorite, Light Fantastic was always in a good trailing spot in the run and was asked for the supreme effort on the point of the turn when Maldivian skipped clear, but was found wanting in the last half furlong just missing a place ending up fourth.
Maldivian’s constant pressure in the run also was too much for old El Segundo, who finished ninth. The 2007 Cox Plate winner failed to run on in the same fashion as he did in the Carlyon Stakes when resuming from a year long spell a few weeks back.
Star 3-year-old Von Costa de Hero jumped away fairly well and was surprisingly close to the speed in the early stages before whacking away honestly to take fifth place, just over two lengths from the winner.
“They left me alone in front today, and my bloke hadn’t lost too much in fitness from the Cox Plate, and it wasn’t until the last 100 meters that I heard them coming, and he just had enough in him,” beamed Maldivian’s rider Michael Rodd.
Runner-up Alamosa ran a slasher. “It was a super effort, I was really happy with him,” his rider Damien Oliver said.
“My horse had every chance and he ran well; there’s plenty of improvement there,” Nash Rawiller, rider of Theseo, chimed in.
The 6-year-old winner is a gelding by Zabeel. It was his ninth win from 27 starts. His stakes earnings are now past $3 million.