After original reservations to target superstar galloper So You Think at a third Cox Plate victory this Melbourne Spring Carnival, connections of the now European-based champion are being forced to consider a return to Australia for exactly that after So You Think’s thrilling win in the Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown overnight.
Atoning for his failed Prince Of Wales effort last start, So You Think reaffirmed his favouritism for the iconic Prix de l’arc de Triomphe and earned a possible Cox Plate campaign back home in Oz when he defeated 2010 English Derby and Arc de Triomphe winner Workforce in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes (2018m) at Sandown Park.
“I am delighted for the horse, it was lovely today,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said.
The Coral Eclipse was contested by just five gallopers, but the quality of contenders was second to none.
So You Think had the gun run after settling in third behind pacemaker Confront and the fellow Sir Michael Stotue-trained Workforce.
Workforce enjoyed their inside position and hit the lead on the turn for home, but the Seamus Heffernan-ridden So You Think didn’t back down from the challenge.
Sitting on Workforce’s tail along the straight, So You Think peeled off and away with 300 metre left to travel, running down the leader before overtaking in the final 100 metres.
In a gallant finish, So You Think edged forward to hit the line three-quarters of a length clear of Workforce while last year’s runner-up Sir Purta finished off the Coral Eclipse trifecta five lengths away third.
It was a wonderful ride for Heffernan to have picked up, So You Think’s former Ascot jockey Ryan Moore having been aboard Workforce.
“He is a very good horse, things went smoothly today and I was delighted with him,” Heffernan told Racing Post.
“It was a nice pace and it was just like a piece of (track) work with a good horse leading me.”
Well-bred High Chaparral four-year-old So You Think, previously prepared by the ‘Cups King’ Bart Cummings, is now under the training of Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien for the famous Coolmore Stud.
O’Brien admitted to Racing Post after the win that the 2011 Cox Plate at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley Racecourse on October 22 was now a possible aim for So You Think, who he believes races his best at 1600m to 2000m.
The Cox Plate is run over 2040m, leading O’Brien to consider a third tilt at the Cox Plate title with So You Think who is the dual defending champ in the feature.
“He is a horse that gets a mile and a quarter but he has a miler’s pace and when they settle, with the speed he has, the sky is the limit,” O’Brien stated.
During his brilliant Australian career, So You Think joined an elite list of thoroughbred legends in winning successive editions of the world’s richest weight-for-age showdown, the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
Making his feat even more incredible was that So You Think won his second Cox Plate at just his tenth career start.
Still, O’Brien is yet to confirm the 2011 Cox Plate campaign and is keeping his options open with his undeniable stable ace.
“He has a lot of choices,” O’Brien said of So You Think.
“He has the Irish Champion Stakes, he has the Juddmonte (International) and he could have a break now and be trained for the Cox Plate.
“He has so many races open to him so we will go home and talk about it and hopefully we will come up with the right plan.”
The Juddmonte International (2092m) runs at York, England, on August 17.
The Irish Champion Stakes (2000m) will take place at Leopardstown in Ireland on September 3, both options for So You Think along with the famous Arc De Triompe (2400m) at Longchamp in France on October 2.
Backing up from his 2010 Cox Plate success last spring in Australia, So You Think won the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day, which saw him start the favourite in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
Despite his awesome ability, the slow track conditions and testing two mile distance saw So You Think finish third to winner Americain and runner-up Maluckyday in the Melbourne Cup before his infamous sale to his new overseas connections.
On debut in Europe So You Think blew away his rivals in the Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes (2000m) taking out the feature by an emphatic 10 lengths at The Curragh on May 2.
Next start he continued his golden run with his first Group 1 win in Europe in the Tatts Gold Cup (2100m) on May 22, understandably impressing O’Brien.
The magic failed next start, however, So You Think finishing second as the beaten favourite in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales at Ascot.
It was an unlucky and highly criticised finish in the Prince Of Wales, but So You Think showed his form once more when bouncing back to win the Eclipse Stakes.
If O’Brien does make good on his Cox Plate intentions with So You Think, the 2011 Cox Plate would give the spring’s $1 million Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) on November 5 at Flemington a run for its money as the most highly-spruiked showdown of the season.
The 2011 Patinack Farm Classic is shaping up as a clash of the superlative sprinters as defending champion, the undefeated Peter Moody-trained queen Black Caviar is likely to take on Singapore flyer Rocket Man.
But, with So You Think in town the month before, who will be the major drawcard will be a battle of its own.
A third successive victory in the Cox Plate for So You Think would see him become just the second horse in history to win the iconic feature three times, joining turf immortal Kingston Town.