Kiwi horseman Stephen McKee has confirmed Saturday’s Toorak Handicap winner King Mufhasa will not be an eleventh hour entry for the Cox Plate 2011 Saturday week and will instead target Group 1 glory during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Racetrack whispers, lead by fellow New Zealand trainer John Bary who prepares Cox Plate-bound Jimmy Choux, suggested that connections of Pentire seven-year-old King Mufhasa may pay the costly $130,000 final late entry fee for the $3 million weight-for-age feature running at Moonee Valley on October 22.
McKee, however, said that a Cox Plate bid for King Mufhasa was only a fleeting thought and that they would return to New Zealand now before returning for the iconic four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival at the end of the month.
A winner of 16 of their 45 career starts to date, King Mufhasa will be given a shot at either the $1 million Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day or the $1 million Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) on November 5, the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival
“He’s only had the one try at 2000 metres and that was as a three-year-old, but he hurt himself in the race and we didn’t find out if he ran the trip,” McKee said.
“I don’t think the Cox Plate is the sort of race you want to use to find that out.
“We’re taking him back to NZ now, but he’ll come back to race during (Melbourne) Cup week.
“The obvious option is the Emirates Stakes, but we are giving thought to trying him over 2000 metres in the Mackinnon with the lack of depth around the middle-distance, weight for age horses.”
The Toorak Handicap was King Mufhasa’s maiden win down under and if they continue on to claim the 2011 Emirates Stakes, they will be the second New Zealand-trained horse to do so in as many years following the success of the Jeff Lynds-trained Wall Street last spring carnival.
Montjeu gelding Wall Street also raced in the Toorak Handicap over the Caulfield mile on the weekend, the seven-year-old finishing a credible fourth beaten three lengths by King Mufhasa.
Unlike the Toorak Handicap winner, Wall Street is set to take place in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) this year, the veteran looking to improve on their seventh to So You Think in the feature last year.
Currently Australia’s premier online bookmaker Luxbet has Wall Street rated a $101 roughie in their Cox Plate odds.
Primarily a sprinter-miler, King Mufhasa hasn’t seen a Cox Plate field before but they have raced in an Emirates Stakes before when finishing 10 lengths away 12th to All American back in 2009.
That came on the back of a ninth to Allez Wonder in the 2009 Toorak Handicap, King Mufhasa showing much nicer form this time round.
Emirates Stakes Day will also be host to superstar sprinter Black Caviar as she vies for back-to-back wins in the $1 million Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m).
Early Patinack Farm Classic odds have Peter Moody’s superlative mare as the odds-on $1.30 favourite at Luxbet.
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2011 Cox Plate Odds