2014 Cox Plate First Option for Puccini

Last season’s champion New Zealand three-year-old Puccini is being earmarked for a Cox Plate 2014 campaign down under this spring with trainer Peter McKay naming the Caulfield Cup as the back-up plan.

Ocean Park (outside)

2012 Cox Plate winner Ocean Park (outside) was the last New Zealand-trained winner of the Moonee Valley classic. Photo: Race Horse Photos Australia.

Winner of the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie back in March, Encosta De Lago stallion Puccini travelled down under for the autumn.

He had two Group 1 runs in the Rosehill Guineas and ATC Derby but finished well back in the field in both including a fifth to Criterion in the Derby run on a Heavy (9) at Randwick on April 12.

This season as a four-year-old he’s had two runs back home including a last start victory over Thorn Prince when nicely weighted on the 54kg minimum in a Group 3 mile showdown last Saturday.

Plans are to return down under in mid next month following one more run in New Zealand in the Group 1 Spring Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 4.

The Matamata-based McKay is hopeful of making the cut for the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley Racecourse on October 25.

Australasia’s weight-for-age classic attracted 110 nominations with Puccini rated a $34 chance through Ladbrokes.com.au to become the second New Zealand-trained Cox Plate winner in three years joining Ocean Park (2012).

If not the Cox Plate, McKay said they would turn their attention on the $3 million Group 1 Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m) the weekend before.

“I’ve been aiming to have a crack at the Cox Plate – at this stage that’s my main aim,” McKay told AAP.

“If he can’t get into the Cox Plate then he’ll run in the Caulfield Cup.”

Caulfield Cup betting at Ladbrokes lists Puccini as a $41 chance with the up-and-comer currently equal 15th on the ballot and nicely weighted with 52.5kg.

Puccini is also nominated for, and paying $41 to win, the ‘race that stops a nation’ – the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4.

The Kiwi gets into the Melbourne Cup weights with 54.5kg and currently sits 33rd on the order of entry for the capacity 24-starter final field.

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