The recent retirement of star mare and early favorite Atlantic Jewel left a wide-open field for the Sportingbet Cox Plate (Aus-I), now headed by five-time group I winner It's a Dundeel.
A field of 14 is set for the 2,040-meter (about 1 1/4-mile) race, Australia's premier weight-for-age event, Oct. 26 at Moonee Valley. The contest offers a purse of $3 million ($2,871,889 in United States funds).
Ten of the 12 Cox Plate winners from 1979 to 1990 were sent out the favorite, but just five have won since then and only two in the past decade: Makybe Diva (2005) and So You Think (2010).
Winner of Sydney's Triple Crown last season, It's a Dundeel handed Atlantic Jewel the first defeat of her career in the Underwood Stakes (Aus-I) Sept. 21 at Caulfield. A minor hoof injury subsequently forced him out of key prep in the Caulfield Stakes (Aus-I), a race Atlantic Jewel easily won Oct. 12.
Atlantic Jewel was knocked out of the Cox Plate by a tendon injury and subsequently retired.
Trainer Murray Baker does not believe It's a Dundeel lost any fitness in missing the race, and the 4-year-old High Chaparral colt pleased him in an Oct. 16 workout for the Cox Plate followed by a sharpener Oct. 22. It's a Dundeel will start from post 12, a position that has yet to yield a Cox Plate winner.
Green Moon finished fifth as the favorite in last year's Cox Plate before continuing on to take the Melbourne Cup last November. He has not won or placed in the top three in four starts since then.
The 7-year-old Montjeu horse comes into this year's Cox Plate having also missed the Caulfield Stakes following his ninth-place finish in the Underwood.
Jockey Glen Boss, who rode Cox Plate winners Makybe Diva in 2005, two-time winner So You Think in 2009, and Ocean Park
in 2012 believes close Turnbull Stakes (Aus-I) runner-up Puissance de Lune is ready to deliver a career-best effort in the race.
Puissance de Lune's regular rider, Boss will watch from the sidelines due to a suspension. Ben Melham has the mount.
"He goes to Moonee Valley, where the track is going to suit him, and he should be a short-priced favorite," Boss told Adelaide Now about the 6-year-old Shamardal horse, who has yet to win at the highest level. "I'm pretty confident he can win; the horse is ready to explode.''
Happy Trails won the Turnbull by a head Oct. 5 at Flemington. The race has produced five previous Cox Plate winners.
Other contenders include Makybe Diva Stakes (Aus-I) winner Foreteller
and Darley Australian Cup (Aus-I) victor Super Cool
International entrants Side Glance
and Mull of Killough
, both group winners in England, will start for the first time since finishing third and eighth, respectively, in the Arlington Million Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 17. Rekindled
Interest, third in the 2011 Cox Plate, will aim to halt a 12-race winless skid.
A win by Shamus Award would make him the first horse to break his maiden in the Cox Plate. The 3-year-old Snitzel colt has three seconds and four thirds from nine career starts but has been competitive in stakes.
He owns six stakes-placings including his third to Cox Plate entrant Long John in the Caulfield Guineas (Aus-I) Oct. 12.