He may be one of the roughie shots in Saturday’s Cox Plate 2014 betting markets but trainer Gai Waterhouse is confident her Group 1 winning three-year-old Almalad has fitness on his side this weekend.
There are three three-year-olds lining-up in this year’s $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m), running as Moonee Valley Race 8, in the capacity 14-starter field.
All three are out to emulate the success of the Danny O’Brien-trained Shamus Award who won as a three-year-old 12 months ago, the first maiden Cox Plate winner in history.
Two of the trio this year are prepared by Waterhouse and come via the same race that produced Shamus Award last year, the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
Waterhouse, shooting for her maiden Cox Plate trophy, will saddle-up her Caulfield Guineas third placegetter Wandjina (barrier five) as well as JJ Atkins winner Almalad (barrier eight).
Al Maher gelding Almalad ran a below par eighth in the Caulfield Guineas on the back of a win in the Group 2 Stutt Stakes over the same track and distance, but is still on track for a Cox Plate win according to Waterhouse.
The other three-year-old in the mix, Sweynesse, is the shortest priced of the youngsters in the weight-for-age classic.
John O’Shea’s 2014 Victoria Derby nominated Lonhro colt comes off a third to Hampton Court in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) in Sydney from October 11 and has been heavily backed in the Cox Plate odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Sweynesse is now into $17 after opening at $34 along with Waterhouse’s pair.
Snitzel colt Wandjina, who has won just one of his nine starts to date over just 1000m, is a query over the Cox Plate distance and so has stayed at $34 in betting.
Almalad meanwhile has firmed into $31 and of the pair he is Waterhouse’s Cox Plate best bet.
Waterhouse is happy to excuse his unplaced Guineas run where from the outside barrier (13) he was forced to do “a power of work”.
Following a nice Flemington gallop last Saturday however Almalad is wound up and ready to peak in the Cox Plate.
“I thought he was a bit burly after he worked on Saturday,” Waterhouse told Racenet.
“He’s a horse that I think will be suited by the tempo of the Cox Plate and definitely suited by the distance and he’s a Group I winner.”
Waterhouse also said his Stutt Stakes win at the track further boosted his credentials.
“I think it’s very important to have winning form at Moonee Valley and he’s got that,” she said.
As for Wandjina controversially taking the final spot in the Cox Plate field over Mourinho, Waterhouse said her horse was deserving of the position and wasn’t without his claims.
“If we had first or second (Shooting To Win or Rich Enuff) from the Caulfield Guineas coming into this no one would question, well this bloke ran third,” she said.
“He loved it at Moonee Valley when he worked and was very relaxed which is important.”
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