The 2013 Sportingbet Cox Plate (Aus-I) will not be soon forgotten.
Front-running maiden Shamus Award and apprentice jockey Chad Schofield stole Australia's weight-for-age championship in scintillating style from some of the nation's top horses Oct. 26 at Moonee Valley.
Shamus Award is the first maiden to win in 90 editions of the Cox Plate. He made nearly all the running and held off the torrid rally of last-out group I winner Happy Trails, who nearly overtook him on the finish line, and Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) favorite Fiorente.
The margin of victory was a half head, with Fiorente gamely surging ahead of group I winner Foreteller to finish a neck back in third.
Five-time group I winner and 4-1 favorite It's a Dundeel finished eighth after racing three wide in the 14-horse field. Second choice Puissance de Lune pulled up lame in a 12th-place finish.
Sent out at 21-1 odds, Shamus Award was timed in 2:05.27 for the 2,040-meter (about 1 1/4-mile) race.
Trained by Danny O'Brien for owners Sean Buckley and Viv Oldfield, Shamus Award only made the field for the $3 million ($2,871,889 in United States funds) race upon the scratch of star mare Atlantic Jewel, who suffered a tendon injury earlier in the week and was retired. As a maiden 3-year-old, he had a significant weight advantage, carrying only 109 pounds compared with the 130 toted by the three closest finishers.
By Arrowfield Stud resident Snitzel, a sire noted for his sprinters, Shamus Award was a much better horse than his 0-for-9 record indicated.
Though the colt had yet to win any of his previous starts, his record included seven placings, six of which came in stakes, including his third behind Cox Plate ninth-place finisher Long John and Divine Calling in the Beck Caulfield Guineas (Aus-I) Oct. 12. He also was a nose second to Divine Calling in a group II race Sept. 27 at Moonee Valley, both races at one mile. He easily stretched out for the first time in the Cox Plate.
"He's been a high-class colt," O'Brien told Australia's Associated Press. "He was a maiden going into today because a few things hadn't gone his way in the Guineas. We certainly went in knowing he was in great order.
"He'd had the perfect preparation to go the 2,000 meters. He had (109 pounds) on his back, and once he drew well (post 3) we were always going to be aggressive. And Chad gave him a peach of a ride."
With Fiorente strongly challenging to his outside with 400 meters to run, Schofield let the reins out a notch on Shamus Award, who shook off that opponent into the straight and opened a clear lead. The 19-year-old rider had a moment of anxiety 100 meters out when he saw Happy Trails flying up on the outside, but Shamus Award held on for the shocking win.
Bred by Robert Hannon of Ascot Park at Pitt Town, New South Wales, Shamus Award is out of the winning Success Express mare Sunset Express. He is the 16th stakes winner and second group I winner from the first four crops of Snitzel, an 11-year-old son of Redoute's Choice.
The colt was a $230,000 ($237,199 in United States funds) purchase by Greg Eurell out of the Vinery Stud consignment at the 2012 Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale.
Kentucky-bred Success Express, winner of the 1987 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), also is the broodmare sire of two other Cox Plate winners, Savabeel (2004) and Pinker Pinker (2011).
Shamus Award now gets a rest and O'Brien has his eye on the 2014 Australian Guineas (Aus-I) with another crack at the Cox Plate a long-range goal.