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An official invitation from the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) has thrown Irish galloper Highland Reel into the Cox Plate 2015 mix and futures betting markets for the ‘race where legends are made’ this spring.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained stallion has won his past two starts on the trot, most recently saluting in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes (2400m) at Arlington in the US last Sunday by an impressive six lengths.
That effort proved his potential to perform in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship Down Under this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, the MVRC extending an invitation connections for the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) on October 24.
There are officially 173 horses making up the Cox Plate nominations this year, including O’Brien’s Galileo four-year-old who also ran second in the Group 1 GP De Chantilly (2400m) in France in mid-May and won the Group 3 Gordon Stakes (2414m) by one and a half lengths at Goodwood in late July.
Futures Cox Plate betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au have another European raider Arod, prepared by Peter Chapple-Hyam, installed as the equal $10 favourite with the consistent John O’Shea-trained Contributer.
Arod was last seen running second behind the saluting favourite Solow in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes (1600m) late last month, while Godolphin’s six-year-old High Chaparral stallion Contributer hasn’t raced since his undefeated autumn campaign that included a Group 1 double with victories in the Chipping Norton Stakes and Ranvet Stakes in Sydney.
The David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained Criterion, who races at York this Wednesday as a $34 hope in the Group 1 Juddmonte International, and Highland Reel then occupy the next line of Cox Plate odds at $13.
That price on Highland Reel has firmed notably since he was issued the Cox Plate invite, making him the 13th international to receive an invitation.
He joins the aforementioned early fancy Arod as well as the OTI Racing-owned Galio Chop ($21) as the invitees nominated for the event by their connections.
Along with Highland Reel O’Brien has also nominated for Cougar Mountain ($17) and Ol’ Man River ($61) as he chases a second Cox Plate trophy to add to that won by Adelaide (2014) last year.
The first international Cox Plate winner in history, Adelaide also won the Secretariat Stakes before his Group 1 success in Australia, further boosting the form line and chances of O’Brien’s top hope for the October feature this season.
And like Adelaide post-Secretariat Stakes, Highland Reel is now set to go into the Cox Plate via a run in the Group 2 Prix Niel (2400m) in France according to Racing Victoria’s chief international recruiter Leigh Jordon.
“They had a pretty good experience with Adelaide and from here I’ll talk with Aidan O’Brien and the owners and we’d be hoping that he would be able to come out again this year,” Jordon told Racing Ahead on RSN.
Jordon added that O’Brien was also considering bringing to Australia from his Ballydoyle stable Ascot Gold Cup runner-up over 4000m Kingfisher for a shot at the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 3.
“I know the Gold Cup can turn out horses that are dour but he showed a good turn of foot and he’s probably one horse that I’d be keeping an eye on,” he said.
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