Longford-based horseman Mick Burles is quietly confident the luck in Melbourne can continue for his Tasmanian raider The Cleaner who is out to score an upset in this afternoon’s 2014 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
The Savoire Vivre seven-year-old has developed something of a cult following with the race fans both in the Apple Isle and Victoria having won four of his six starts in Melbourne this season.
All four of those wins were at the notoriously tight Moonee Valley circuit too giving the veteran stayer an imposing record at the track (6-4-1-1).
He will be out to add to that record again today then lining up in the outside barrier of the fourteen horse field for the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m).
“He’s a lovely horse and has always been sound but when you’re a bloke like me and have come from nowhere, something is bound to go wrong,” Burles told The West Australian this week.
“Luckily nothing has.”
The Cleaner has made the trip from Tasmania to Victoria many times before and arrived ahead of his Cox Plate bid on Friday morning, a smooth trip across the Bass Strait boosting Burles’s confidence after they had to endure seven-metre seas last time.
It may be Australasia’s weight-for-age championship but Burles is keeping his emotions in check and has treated the race like any other in an effort to keep the nerves down and the hoodoos at bay.
Two back The Cleaner beat home a crack field in the Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) and then won again when returning to Moonee Valley on September 26 for the Group 3 JRA Cup (2040m) win over the Cox Plate distance.
Steven Arnold, who has had eight Cox Plate rides for one win and a third, rode the horse for his two latest wins, his only two starts on his back, and retains the ride in the Cox Plate.
It may have been four weeks between runs then leading into today’s acid test, but Burles has kept the horse fit and has him in top condition for the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival major.
“He had five days off when he came home from the JRA Cup then we started slow working him,” he said.
“He’s had three gallops, two good ones and one sharp one to finish with.
“His last gallop on Wednesday was a little too good.
“There were trainers in the stand saying that has never happened here before, he ran his last 400 metres in 21.7 (seconds).
“He’s a stayer, not a sprinter.”
Despite his gun record on the course, the outside draw and quality of the competition saw the bookies install The Cleaner as a $15 chance in the Cox Plate betting markets earlier in the week.
He has since been backed into $12 through Ladbrokes.com.au however with money coming for him to continue his fairytale run and become the first seven-year-old Cox Plate winner since Makybe Diva (2005).
The best fancied of that age in the race this year meanwhile is the easing $4.80 favourite Fawkner coming off a win in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) from earlier in the month.
Win or lose today Burles is just thrilled with what his horse has achieved.
Still, the Cox Plate trophy would be a nice piece of silverware to take back across the Tasman and further cement the horse as one of the Tassie sporting greats along with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Darrel Baldock and 1972 Melbourne Cup winner Piping Lane.
“I hope he would be on top of them,” Burles said.
“Ponts is a good bloke, the `Doc was one of the best footballers ever, Piping Lane a brilliant horse.
“There’s plenty there that he’d have to climb over, but I’ll be happy with whatever he does.”
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