Irish horseman Aidan O’Brien on Saturday shoots for successive Cox Plate victories with Highland Reel looking to repeat the feat of his former stablemate Adelaide from last spring and again frank the form of the Secretariat Stakes in the Moonee Valley classic.
Now prepared by Sydney’s best Chris Waller, last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival Adelaide was an Irish raider from the O’Brien stables who won the Group 1 Secretariat Stakes (2012m) in the USA that August before his down under debut in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
Jockey Ryan Moore won both the Secretariat Stakes and then the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) on the gun galloper, a feat he and trainer O’Brien will look to do again in 2015 with another son of Galileo – Highland Reel.
Like Adelaide, Highland Reel enjoyed success in Arlington’s Secretariat Stakes by an impressive five lengths on way to the Cox Plate that runs with a capacity 14-starter field at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Saturday.
He has had one extra run however with a last start fifth behind Golden Horn in the Group 1 Irish Championship Stakes (2012m) at Leopardstown in September.
It is form O’Brien’s assistant trainer TJ Comerford is confident can stack up on Saturday, the stable rep happy to make the comparisons between Adelaide and Highland Reel.
“You look at the book, and they’re on a similar road – he [Adelaide] won the Secretariat, he [Highland Reel] was very impressive in the Secretariat,” Comerford told Racing Victoria.
“This fella is pretty much a similar horse to Adelaide, he has a good attitude.
“The form is in the book, he’s there to take his chance.
“I know things can go wrong, you need a little bit of luck…as we stand now, Adelaide here last year, and Highland Reel this year, there’s not much between them.”
Comerford went on to say Highland Reel’s form trumped that of Adelaide’s with his five length win in the Secretariat compared to last year’s 1.5 length success, and that the extra run gave him a fitness edge.
“I suppose his form is a bit better than Adelaide’s,” he said.
“Adelaide got beat in a Group 2 before he came here, and before that he won the Secretariat.
“This horse [Highland Reel] was second in a French Derby, he’s won a Secretariat very easily.
“His run in the Irish Champion Stakes – which the winner [Golden Horn] has gone on to win a Prix de l’Arc – that probably gives you a bit more hope, to say that his form is a bit better.
“But they’re similar horses, and he won’t be far away.”
Adelaide jumped as a 7/1 chance in Cox Plate odds led by Fawkner last year, the top fancy crossing just a quarter length away second, before rounding up the entire field to take it out.
This season the Cox Plate betting markets have Highland Reel installed as the $5 chance, the Robert Hickmott-trained beaten favourite last spring Fawkner also back again currently paying $15 through Ladbrokes.com.au after drawing the outside barrier 14 of 14 that has never produced a Cox Plate winner.
Following Highland Reel in the Cox Plate markets currently are last start Caulfield Cup winner Criterion ($6) jumping from barrier seven that has produced three of the past 10 winners, the Waller-trained Epsom Handicap winning mare Winx ($7.50) in barrier one, another international raider Arod ($8) in gate five with Craig Williams in the saddle and another Waller hope in Kermadec who has triple Cox Plate winning jockey Glen Boss aboard from gate 10.
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