Lonhro Denied Cox Plate Glory Once Again

Longshot Fields of Omagh grabbed the lead with a quarter of a mile to go and held off Defier by a neck in the $3 million (Australian) Draught Cox Plate (Aus-I) at Moonee Valley Saturday, denying favored Lonhro for the second straight year.

The 7-year-old Lonhro, sent off with backing of 1-2, was a half-length back in third place, four lengths clear of Zagalia.

The winner's share of $2 million was easily the biggest payday for the 6-year-olds son of Rubiton, who had amassed $1.2 million in earnings before today's race.

The breakthrough winner trained by Tony McEvoy and ridden to victory by Steven King returned $32 for the win, $11 to place and $4.30 to show in the North American pools. The win, clocked in 2:07 3/5 for the 1 1/4 on soft going, was the tenth lifetime victory for the hard knocking Fields of Omagh but was his first triumph in a group I race.

The skies over Melbourne began to darken forty minutes out from the running of the Cox Plate, which drew a crowd of 30,109. Soon a driving rain began to cascade down on the Moonee Valley racecourse.

For the second year, the John Hawkes-trained Lonhro was favored. He was only a slight favorite last year over the pair of legendary runners Sunline and Northerly. This year there was no doubt which runner the crowd fancied.

Lonhro had nine victories in his last ten runs including six straight group I wins since last year's Cox Plate. The only time he failed to win in over a year was earlier this season when he ran fourth over the soft going at Randwick in the Doncaster Stakes (Aus-I).

This year's race featured only one international runner, the 4-year-old South African mare Paraca (ARG), who didn't waste anytime introducing herself to her competitors. She bounded out of the gates and set a furious and ultimately unrealistic pace in the 1 1/4 mile weight-for-age event.

As the field hit the bend just under a quarter of a mile from home it was Fields of Omagh who took up the running on the inside and set sail for the judges with Defier just off his flank.

Lonhro moved up to third at this point but was never traveling as easily as usual and couldn't quite reach the leaders in the closing stages.